LAX cleaning crews demand better equipment, training amid coronavirus outbreak

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Cleaning crews, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants in the forefront of the battle against the spread of the novel coronavirus at the Los Angeles International Airport made a public demand Tuesday for sufficient equipment and training from the companies they're contracted with.

The SEIU United Service Workers West, which represents more than 7,200 airline service workers in California, accused JetStream Ground Services and S.A.S. for asking crews to clean planes without providing proper training to handle COVID-19.

On Tuesday morning, union members handed out gloves, masks and informational flyers outside Terminal 4 at LAX on Tuesday morning.

Barbara Gomez said when she was assigned to clean an incoming plane from China on Jan. 29, she alerted her supervisor of her health conditions that make her vulnerable to contagious disease.

She asked to be placed with another team, but the supervisor was hesitant, Gomez told KTLA.

Anthony Blakely, who's also tasked to clean cabins, said workers are not equipped with sufficient tools. He also demanded training.

“Give us what we need to fight the new virus," he said.

In a statement from the union, LAX wheelchair attendant Tim Maddox said: “Now is not the time for irresponsible contractors to be cutting corners. This is about our health, and the health of our entire city and community. If a contractor like S.A.S. is too cheap to be complying with city training requirements, then why are they being allowed to operate at the airport?”

L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin said he planned to address the workers' concerns by introducing legislation next week intended to improve safety procedures for airport workers.

“I am alarmed by reports from service workers and cleaning crews at LAX that they have not received proper training, supplies or equipment to protect their health guard against the virus,” Bonin said in a statement to KTLA.

S.A.S. has not released a statement on the union's allegations.

Meanwhile, JetStream Ground Services told KTLA the company had "always had an abundant supply of safety equipment for all employees to fulfill their daily assignments, even before we were aware of COVID-19."

The company added, "We are in constant communication with the airlines and LAWA and want to stress that first and foremost, our priority is always the safety of our employees. We are proud of our employees at LAX and are committed to keeping our employees safe."