LAX catering workers claim Inglewood facility exits blocked from pickets – Orange County Register

Catering workers at the Flying Food Group have filed a Cal/OSHA complaint against the company, alleging management locked doors and tightened security at the Inglewood plant the same day workers were preparing for to demonstrate higher wages.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 6 on behalf of four of the 346 Flying Food employees who serve airlines at LAX and are represented by Unite Here Local 11. They are asking the state agency to conduct an on-site inspection to confirm their claims.

They say the locked doors and gates, which have since been reopened, posed a hazard to workers in an emergency. Her employment contract expired on January 31 and the two sides are in negotiations for a new agreement.

In a statement released Friday, Feb. 17, Flying Food said the Los Angeles County Fire Department fully inspected the building and found no safety violations.

The Flying Food Group’s Inglewood plant employs 346 workers who serve airlines at LAX and are represented by Unite Here Local 11. (Photo courtesy of Unite Here Local 11) . would take place on February 2 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Earlier that day, employees noticed that the company had hired additional security guards. And the shipping door, which serves as an egress for staff working in the reception area, storeroom and kitchen areas, has been locked, the complaint said.

“One of the first things I noticed was the increased security,” said Gary Duplessis, a cook at the facility and one of the complainants. “Until this morning I had never seen so much security. I mean, what did you think we were going to do…storm the Capitol?”

Duplessis said he saw an employee drill a hole through the shipping door before going through to take a break. When he came back it was locked. A screw plate had been drilled into the door and wall, making it impossible to get in or out, the complaint said.

That action, Duplessis said, was clearly aimed at disrupting the protest, which was taking place later that day.

“I just don’t get it,” said the 62-year-old Los Angeles resident. “It is dehumanizing for a company to take such extreme measures. I suppose it all came down to us wanting to do the protest.”

Paul Andrade, another employee, attempted to go through an outside gate to take a break and found that it was also locked with a metal plate. Another worker complained that he saw newly drilled holes in a cafeteria door.

Jacqueline Perez, a Flying Food worker and organizer of Unite Here, called the firefighters, who arrived at 12 noon on the day of the protest and inspected the building’s doors and gate. By then they had all been reopened with the screw plates removed.

A Flying Foods safety manager told the fire department the shipping door was locked because it wasn’t working, the complaint said, but fire officials found the door was working properly.

According to Flying Food Group, safety is a top priority at their Inglewood facility.

“We remain committed to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for all of our employees and to fully resolving all matters with CAL OSHA to ensure the health and safety of our employees,” the company said.

Unite Here organizer Rachele Smith said Flying Food’s actions are clear.

“It’s really scary and unsettling what a company is willing to do,” she said. “But when talking to workers, most of them feel more motivated to take action and let us screen their employer.”

Mario Quintanilla, a Flying Food flight coordinator who packs, inspects and loads food onto planes, said the company’s actions made her uneasy.

“When I realized what had happened, I felt anxious and insecure at work,” said the 54-year-old Huntington Park resident.

Flying Food employees — along with chefs, cashiers, waiters and bartenders who work for concessionaires at LAX — all say they are underpaid. They held a rally outside an Airports Council International-North America CEO forum in Santa Monica last week to get their message across.

They are demanding a higher minimum wage so they can afford rent in the city where they work.

They say the existing base wage of $18.04 an hour for concession workers not employed directly at the airport would require someone working 17 hours a day to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. LAX catering workers claim Inglewood facility exits blocked from pickets – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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