We packed the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Board of Airport Commissioners meeting to capacity on Thursday, Jan 19th to deliver the resounding message — HIRE UP AND RETAIN OUR LAX WORKFORCE, AND PROVIDE SAFE WORKING CONDITIONS.
Accompanied by over 50 LAX SEU 721 members, our SEIU 721 Executive Board Members Theodore Sanchez, Joe Martinez, Dion Cornelius, and SEIU 721 Political Coordinator Vito Triglia, provided public comment at the Board meeting to call attention to the across-the-board LAX understaffing issues and the ongoing problems with LAWA’s uniform program.
“We came before to address the short-staffing issues and there’s still no resolution. It’s creating a hostile working environment and unsafe conditions,” said SEIU 721 E-Board Member Theodore Sanchez.
“We’ve filed group grievances. We’re willing to sit down and talk to you. We’re willing to work with you. There is a need for LAWA employees to feel safe. As labor partners, I ask that we find a solution to this.”
The understaffing is impacting LAX members in every classification, forcing us to work even longer hours and to take on additional responsibilities without the proper compensation. The reality is that we are getting burned out and contemplating leaving LAX due to the staffing issues.
Despite our pleas to hire up, including the filing of group grievances in 2022 over the safety issues that result from short-staffing, LAWA managers are taking the low-road on the issue. Most recently, they’re planning to undo the 9/80 work policy and implement a 5/40 schedule because they won’t hire up. The reality is that a 5/40 policy will only push more of us to work elsewhere because a 9/80 schedule provides us the flexibility to take care of our personal and family needs. LAWA management needs to understand that retention and recruiting are interconnected and cannot be ignored.
“Management is playing games with us, changing our schedules and making us work longer,” said SEIU 721 E-Board Member Deion Cornelius.
“We want to able to go home and see our families,” he added.
The understaffing is not the only issue that brought out members in full force to the Board.
The ongoing uniform laundry issues impacting our LAX Fleet and Weld Shop members still has not been resolved, despite assurances that it would be addressed. This past summer, LAWA ended the “linen service” for our Fleet and Weld Shop members, forcing them to try to wash their uniforms at home, despite the hazards (see the full story here from our June/July 2022 President Report).
Fleet and Weld Shop members handle hazardous materials and require fire-retardant uniforms that must be professionally laundered. Members have made it very clear that they will not put their families at risk by doing this at home, nor can they endanger others by using a laundromat.
“We’ve asked repeatedly to work with you to fix this situation,” said SEIU 721 E-Board member Joe Martinez.
“The Department has failed to provide us with a linen service for the past months. We are forced to try to go out and try to wash our uniforms on our days off.”
It’s almost as LAWA’s CEO Justin Erbacci knew what was coming before our SEIU 721 member leaders spoke at the podium. In a presentation on staffing prior to our public comment, Erbacci explicitly said, “I think the only way to move the needle [on hiring] is to sit down with the unions.”
There’s no doubt that our members are ready and prepared to sit down and figure out the understaffing issues with the CEO and management, along with other health and safety problems.
Please stay tuned for more breaking news and be prepared to take more action to bring the workplace changes that we need and deserve.
When we fight, we win.