Los Angeles airport commissioners approved a variety of new rules for airline service companies Monday, including a controversial requirement for labor peace agreements to prevent strikes, boycotts and disruptive demonstrations at LAX.
Mayor Eric Garcetti backed the proposal, saying in a statement that it "will better ensure that companies servicing airlines at LAX are providing their workers with adequate training, especially related to public safety and security, and help prevent disruptions to customer service and airport operations."
But the action was criticized by airline representatives and airport service companies that provide carriers with thousands of baggage handlers, skycaps, security personnel, wheelchair assistants and aircraft cabin cleaners.
They argue that the city-imposed labor rules could lead to lawsuits because they violate federal law, which for decades has regulated union representation and dispute resolution involving the airline industry.
Company officials also expressed concern that the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West, which has been trying to organize airline service workers at LAX, was pushing the proposal.
Garcetti received $198,000 in contributions from the SEIU during the last mayoral election. His office did not respond to a request for comment concerning what, if any, influence the SEIU might have had on the matter.
Before Monday's commission vote, David Voss, an attorney and member of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, argued against the labor peace agreement requirement and urged the panel to make "the right decision and not the political one."
The new rules apply to an airport program created in 2012 to improve standards, training and working conditions at airline service companies. They call for whistle-blower protections and increased training, especially in emergency preparedness, first aid and evacuation procedures.
The new labor peace requirements apply to all airline service companies whether unionized or not. They must reach agreements with an organization, agency or employee committee that can address worker grievances and disputes involving wages, hours of employment and working conditions.
Airline service companies and airline groups, such as Airlines for America, say it is unclear how the requirement would work and suggested it could lead to more unionization of workers. Airport commissioners rejected their request for more time to study the matter.
Andrew Gross Gaitan, director of the SEIU's airports division, which supported the measure, said unionized companies could develop labor peace agreements with the unions representing their workers or any other organization or employee committee. Non-unionized companies elsewhere have reached such agreements in various ways, and the language of the labor peace provisions comply with federal law, he said.