Just as the Thanksgiving travel period kicked into high gear, a labor protest prompted rolling street closures Tuesday near Los Angeles International Airport, adding to headaches for travelers trying to cope with already heavy holiday traffic.
The protest by unionized caterers with LSG Sky Chefs and its subsidiary Gate Gourmet, which contracts with American Airlines and other carriers, was part of a nationwide series of job actions calling for higher wages and improved health-care options. Officials with the Unite Here union said the protests at LAX and other airfields could be the largest demonstration of workers at U.S. airports in years.
Protesters began gathering at about 5 p.m. near Airport and Century boulevards, and a short time later, dozens of union members and their supporters began marching west on Century toward LAX. With police escorting the group, a stretch of westbound Century was closed to traffic as the group — chanting and waving signs — made its way toward Sepulveda Boulevard.
Sepulveda was briefly closed in both directions as the group crossed the street en route to the airport terminal area.
Airport officials advised travelers to give themselves plenty of time to reach the terminals in light of the protest.
Heath Montgomery, a spokesman for LAX, said earlier the airport was working closely with its Airport Police Department as well as the Los Angeles Police Department to monitor the situation and prevent major delays for travelers.
“Of course, we’re very concerned at the start of the holiday season,” Montgomery said. “We’re expecting this to be a record travel season. Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be the busiest days with some 240,000 people trying to move in and out of the facility. To have a disruption is certainly concerning.”
According to Unite Here, one in four workers with LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet earn less than $12 per hour, including people who have worked for them for more than a decade. The union also contends that 33% of workers at LSG Sky Chefs at LAX had company healthcare in 2018, and 10% of that insurance covered dependents.
The company issued a statement in response saying, “Our negotiating team and a federal mediator have been working since May 2019 to negotiate in good faith with the union representing our employees. While this is a short period of time to negotiate a complex labor agreement, we feel progress is being made with the help of the federal mediator. We remain committed to negotiating in good faith.”
American Airlines also provided a statement saying the carrier is “confident” in the negotiations, but it ultimately has no control over the labor talks.
The labor demonstration is planned ahead of rain, snow and unusually cold temperatures forecast for Southern California this week. The weather conditions could make for a soggy Thanksgiving and present a challenge for those planning to drive or fly for the holiday weekend.
The National Weather Service warned Sunday of a major storm expected to hit the area Wednesday and last through Friday.
Although the rain isn’t expected to arrive until Wednesday, expected tidal overflow has prompted officials to issue a coastal flood advisory in the Southland from 6 a.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Strong winds and slightly cooler temperatures are expected. A high wind warning is in effect until 3 a.m. Tuesday for northwest winds across the mountains and the Antelope Valley. Gusts could get as high as 60 mph, according to the NWS.
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