Those who live near and work at the airport say development must better address job quality, healthcare, pollution, and displacement
LOS ANGELES–Dozens of LAX airport workers from in-terminal concessions and retail, guest services, and airline catering demonstrated against airport expansion Thursday as the Board of Airport Commissioners voted to certify an environmental report that moves the development process forward.
Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles City Council are seeking to rapidly expand LAX amid projected ongoing growth in air traffic and infrastructure needed to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But thousands of workers throughout the airport—members of UNITE HERE Local 11 working in food service and retail positions and of SEIU-USWW working in janitorial and passenger services—point to issues that are still not addressed.
“Even though I work at LAX, I will fight this airport expansion if it’s just going to get us more of the same,” said Rosio Narez, a member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who lives in Inglewood. “Almost everyone in my family has asthma, and I was hospitalized for my asthma as a kid. Increased air traffic will increase air pollution and make families like mine more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. My entire family got COVID, and the communities around the airport have been some of the hardest-hit. We can’t ignore these issues.”
“I oppose this expansion because the airport has not done enough to ensure that we— the people who work at LAX—can get by,” said Laura Banuett, who has worked as a fast food attendant at the airport since 2016. “Rent is so expensive. I’ve had to move further and further away and now live in Compton, raising my daughter on my own while living in a converted garage with no bathroom and no kitchen. I spend almost three hours on public transportation every day to get to and from work. It can’t keep going on like this.”
“Southern California hospitality and service workers are moving from a devastating fight to stay healthy and housed during the pandemic to preparing for the world’s largest tourism events,” said Robin Rodriguez, organizing director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “City leaders face a series of votes that will affect the everyday lives of these families for decades. We want their decisions—about job quality, access to affordable healthcare, pollution, and noise—to demonstrate the value of our work as ‘essential’ in a time of economic growth as well as in a time of crisis.”
The LAX Airfield and Terminal Modernization is a massive project to construct Concourse 0 and Terminal 9, add more than two dozen gates, and reconfigure runways and taxiways, among other changes.
Data from LAWA demonstrates that 78% of domestic passenger traffic recovered in July 2021 compared to July 2019—the strongest performance since the pandemic began.
UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers and airports.