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LAX Workers Urge Legislators for Improved Working Conditions

LAX
LAX Airport News on WestsideToday.com (Thinkstock)

Airport workers went before a panel of Sacramento legislators on May 9 to urge action on what they allege are unsafe equipment and working conditions at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) that may have led to the death of a co-worker.

Employees of Menzies Aviation, which provides cargo-moving services to airlines at LAX, testified before the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment at a downtown Los Angeles hearing on “workplace hazards among airline service contractors at LAX.”

One of the employees, Joe Orlellana, said before the hearing that the equipment provided by Menzies are often broken and pose a “danger for workers, passengers – for everybody.”

“We want action right now,” Orlellana told reporters.

Changes are needed especially since co-worker Cesar Valenzuela died in February after falling off a luggage-moving cart that did not have seatbelts, he said.

The cart also had flat tires and “different mechanical problems,” he said.

Menzies issued a statement saying the company inspected the cart nine days before Valenzuela fell from the cart and “it was found to be in good working condition with the seatbelt intact.”

“When the tug (cart) was inspected again immediately following the accident on Feb. 21, 2014, the seat belt assembly was missing. We have been unable to determine when or why the tug was tampered with, or by whom,” the statement said.

The company said it continues “to cooperate fully” with Cal/OSHA, the state agency that is investigating the workplace death.

A safe working environment is “at center of everything Menzies does,” the company said.

Valenzuela’s widow, Ulbita Ramirez, was among those who urged the state legislators to create better working conditions at the airport.

The workers “are always in danger,” Ramirez said. “I don’t want other families to suffer the way we are suffering.”

Ramirez said the baggage carts driven by workers not only lack seatbelts, but also lack protection from the sun, wind and other elements.

According to a release issued by SEIU United Service Workers West, a labor union assisting the airport workers who testified today, Valenzuela is the fourth employee of Menzies to die as a result of workplace accidents at airports in California. Three were at LAX and one was at San Francisco International Airport.

The union represents food service workers at LAX, but not Menzies employees and other cargo-handling workers.

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