Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A labor union trying to organize airport ramp and cargo workers announced it is partnering with Menzies Aviation to help the airline contractor improve health and safety conditions for its Los Angeles International Airport employees.

Menzies Aviation’s partnership with Service Employees International Union, United Service Workers West, or SEIU-USWW, was formed two months after the company was hit with a $77,250 Cal-OSHA fine for three accident-related workplace safety violations found during an investigation prompted by the Feb. 21 death of a 51-year-old baggage cart tug driver who fell off the vehicle.

According to a coroner’s report, Cesar Valenzuela died of blunt trauma. Hypertrophic heart disease was listed as a contributing factor, but the report said it was not directly related to his death. The tug had a non-functioning seatbelt.

SEIU-USWW has been working to organize Menzies employees since 2012, and the company’s non-management employees are not currently unionized, but the company reached out to the union because they have taken the lead in pursuing safety issues at LAX, according to union research director Andrew Gross Gaitan.

“We’ve been pounding on the issue of heath and safety at LAX, so to have the company that has the longest-running and most serious problems to want to come forward and partner with us to try to turn the situation around — I think that’s a very positive development for the future of worker health and safety at LAX,” Gaitan said.

The workplace violation citations and a new licensing policy at LAX requiring contractors to have clean health and safety records may have prompted Menzies to reach out to the union to develop a new health and safety program, Gaitan said.

Los Angeles World Airport officials who oversee LAX and other city-owned airports were “seriously considering terminating (Menzie’s) license” to operate at LAX, he said.

Menzies spokeswoman Maya Pogoda said they have entered into a “unique partnership with the SEIU to explore new and innovative ways to provide the safest, most efficient and professional services possible at LAX.

“The company is pleased to have resolved its differences with the SEIU and looks forward to a bright future at LAX,” she said.

Under the health and safety program, a committee will be formed that comprise SEIU-USWW and Menzies representatives, employees, and health and safety advocates.

Industry experts will also help develop worker health and safety training programs, inspection programs will be created for vehicle and heavy equipment, and Menzies employees will have a process for communicating their concerns to management.

City News Service

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