In a move to improve service quality, safety and security at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the Los Angeles City Council Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee has called for a new program to reduce job turnover and ensure adequate training for airline contracted service workers.

The committee voted Wednesday, August 6th, to request the city attorney to prepare recommendations for the new program. The motion, introduced by City Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl and Janice Hahn, calls for strengthened training requirements, as well as an increase in existing wage and benefit requirements for employers.

The vote carries through recommendations of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy for improving the working conditions and wages of passenger service workers at LAX. The alliance had issued the recommendations in its recent report “Shortchanged,” which addressed how airlines can use federal subsidies to improve job standards at the airport.

LAX is considered the fifth-busiest airport in the world for passengers, handling 61.9 million passengers last year, or about 70 percent of the passenger traffic in the Southern California region.

Committee members said that with tourism being the second-biggest industry in Los Angeles, it is particularly important to ensure that quality of service and security is a priority at LAX.

The proposed legislation will affect airline-contracted service workers with access to secure areas of the airport, including security officers, skycaps, wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and terminal janitors. Compensation for these jobs is set by the city’s Living Wage Ordinance.

“We know the airline industry is hurting and we are committed to moving forward with our plans to modernize the airport for the benefit of the industry and passengers,” said Hahn. “But we don’t want to modernize the airport and leave our workers behind. We want everyone to rise as we improve LAX.”

According to the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee motion, service workers have an important role in the service and security of passengers but their working conditions remain poor. Despite the city’s living wage ordinance, most workers earn under $19,000 per year, the motion states.

The proposed program will ensure that contractors meet a common set of qualifications and performance standards, including initial and recurrent training of employees, and training in the handling of the elderly and passengers with disabilities.

“The City Council should really be applauded for moving forward to raise training and wage and benefit standards at LAX by introducing this motion,” said Carolina Briones, research director for the Alliance for a New Economy. “Investing in this workforce will lead to increases in productivity and customer satisfaction for the airlines, and is critical for the industry’s success and profitability in the long-term.”

At San Francisco International Airport, all companies that employ workers with security-related jobs must be certified by the airport and meet quality standards requirements it has set ensuring that employees have basic training and evaluation standards, the committee motion notes.

Committee members requested that the city attorney consider options for setting higher wage and benefit standards for service workers, as well as training requirements similar to those implemented at San Francisco International Airport.