OSH Activist member LAANE has been an organizing and advocacy institution committed to economic, environmental, and racial justice for the last 30 years. One way their commitment takes form is with the Tourism Workers Rising (TWR) campaign. Focused in the Los Angeles area, the Tourism Workers Rising Coalition is a group of labor and community justice organizations working to create a fairer economy for airport and hotel workers. TWR is currently trying to pass an ordinance with the LA City Council to raise the minimum wage for tourism workers to $25/hour with an increase to $30/hour by 2030. This would help workers meet their needs as the expansion of the tourism industry looms with the World Cup and the Olympics threatening to widen the gap between wages and the cost of living in an already expensive city.
In such a multi-faceted campaign, TWR is also supporting two unions who are currently in the fight for fair contracts: Unite Here Local 11 & SEIU-USWW. SoCalCOSH spoke with two SEIU airport workers to highlight the importance of this ordinance and the health and safety issues airport workers face on the job.
Jovan Houston works at LAX in the customer service department. Before switching to customer service, Houston worked in a warehouse at LAX where she was exposed to inhaling chemicals on a daily basis. “Health and safety is the way I breathe every day and the way I live every day”, Houston has developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) making her access to healthcare a necessity for everyday life. Through the TWR campaign, Houston hopes to see better plans for herself and her family and a wage that makes it easier to pay for her insurance’s copay.
Armando Munoz, ACAMS agent at LAX, explains that the cost of living crisis is felt throughout the airport, “it takes me a month and a half to pay my mortgage… I’ve heard other stories in the airport where [workers] have to get a two bedroom apartment and you have four people living there.” Munoz also spoke to the dangers to their safety that LAX workers feel on the job stating that threats of workplace violence are not uncommon as shown with mass shootings at LAX. The message here is clear: workers are not making enough money to afford to live where they work while also putting their health and safety on the line to keep the tourism economy running.
Ashley Gonzalez-Vielman, community organizer with LAANE, is helping uplift the workers who keep this city running. Gonzales-Vielman shares that an LAX worker or hotel housekeeper would have to work 14 hours a day in order to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. Coupling rising wages, the ordinance will also include health and safety measures that airport and hotel workers need on the job. Highlighting the intersection of health and safety in the campaign’s goals, she says, “We are seeking to ensure that tourism workers have the necessary training to stay safe and healthy on the job.”
The fight for a fairer tourism economy continues this summer as TWR waits for the LA City Council to return from recess with a report back. To stand in solidarity with airport and hotel workers, folks can sign this petition to show the LA City Council that people who work in LA deserve to live in LA.