Due Diligence on the Part of Airport Assistants for People with Disabilities

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News media have picked up on a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation last week filed by two SEIU members.

Service workers at Los Angeles International Airport filed a federal complaint on Thursday, saying they had not received adequate training for assisting travelers with disabilities. The two workers said in the complaint that their employer, Aero Port Services, had not offered real training in how to operate a wheelchair since 2003. Because of that, they said, workers dropped three passengers with disabilities in the span of a year.

KPFK Evening News, Thu, June 28, 2007
http://64.27.15.184/parchive/mp3/kpfk_070628_181500kpfknews.mp3

Los Angeles Times June 29, 2007
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-disabled29jun29,1,2937708.story?coll=la-headlines-california_&ctrack=1&cset=true

Wheelchair provider at LAX targeted
By Francisco Vara-Orta
Times Staff Writer

Two workers who provide wheelchair assistance to disabled travelers at
Los Angeles International Airport filed a complaint Thursday with the
U.S. Department of Transportation, alleging that their employer has
failed to provide legally mandated training and properly maintain
wheelchairs.

Backed by a group of eight disability and workers' rights organizations,
the complaint alleges that Aero Port Services has failed to train some
of its 350 wheelchair assistance employees, leading to eyewitness
accounts of three customers being dropped from their wheelchairs in the
last 12 months, among other problems.

But Stephan Park, director of Aero Port Services' legal department,
rebutted the allegations, adding that he had not yet seen the complaint.

Park said the company has nurses provide training in how to help people
in wheelchairs. He said the company has 75 new wheelchairs in its fleet
of 100 and has ordered an additional 40 chairs.

For about four years, Inglewood-based Aero Port Services has had a
contract to serve the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Park said the complaint may be an attempt to "put pressure" on the
company to unionize.

"We are one of only two ground-handling companies that are not
unionized," he said.

Carolina Briones of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a
labor-backed community group, said Parks was mistaken.

Unionizing "is not what the complaint is about," Briones said. "This is
about safety for the disabled and those handling them."

The employees' complaint states that Aero Port Services has violated
parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access
Act, requiring that airlines and airports make accommodations to assist
disabled passengers with traveling.

/francisco.varaorta@latimes.com/

Daily Breeze.com Friday, June 29, 2007

http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/8241147.html

LAX workers seek training for aiding disabled passengers
Service employees say three passengers in wheelchairs were dropped.
From staff reports

Service workers at Los Angeles International Airport filed a federal
complaint on Thursday, saying they had not received adequate training
for assisting travelers with disabilities.

The two workers said in the complaint that their employer, Aero Port
Services, had not offered real training in how to operate a wheelchair
since 2003. Because of that, they said, workers dropped three passengers
with disabilities in the span of a year.

The workers also said they had not been trained to help passengers with
different types of disabilities, such as visual impairment. They argued
that the federal Air Carrier Access Act requires such training, as well
as periodic refresher courses.

"We do our best to figure it out," one of the workers, Tim Maddox, said
at a press conference in front of the main international terminal at
LAX. The other worker, Xiomara Osorio, said that it's "uncomfortable for
us and for the passengers to have to guess what to do."

The company had not received formal notice of the complaint by late
Thursday afternoon, said Stephan Park, the director of its legal
department. He declined to comment on the workers' claims: "I can't
comment on something I haven't seen."

Aero Port Services employs about 800 people at LAX, Park said; he
estimated that about 300 of them work in what the company Web site calls
"wheelchair operations." The company also offers security and cargo
services at the airport, according to its Web site.

The two workers filed their complaint with the U.S. Department of
Transportation. A copy provided to the media laid out a list of demands,
including a "disability liaison" to train workers and penalties against
the company.

Several advocates for disabled people added their names to the complaint
as supporters. They included the American Association of People with
Disabilities and the California Alliance for Retired Americans.

Workers for Aero Port and other service providers at LAX have been
pushing for better pay and working conditions in recent months.

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