LAANE Helps Bring Family Healthcare to Thousands of LAX Workers

December 18, 2009 -- Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
LAANE victory picture

Los Angeles City Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl and Janice Hahn and celebrate the unanimous vote to update the city’s living wage law with airline service worker Jose Hernandez

In a sweeping victory for working families, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously last month to make a long-overdue update to the city’s living wage ordinance. This update will raise the living wage in order to provide access to quality family healthcare for thousands of private sector LAX airline service workers. A year in the making, the vote amends the living wage to provide an increase to the healthcare allotment, meaning that families who have never had private healthcare will now be able to seek medical treatment and care.

LAANE played a key role in securing passage of the legislation. LAANE released a study in April that detailed the need for healthcare for 5,000 LAX workers and their families. These workers are responsible for everything from cleaning and searching airplanes to assisting passengers in wheelchairs, yet until passage of this update thousands relied on public healthcare programs—or had no health insurance at all. The update, which raises the healthcare allotment of the living wage from the $1.25 per hour standard set in 1997 to $4.50, promises to improve the health and welfare of workers who serve millions of passengers every year.

The same LAANE study that identified the need for healthcare determined that family healthcare could be achieved via a mere 27 cent increase per passenger ticket sold. Such a small increase would create a more stable workforce—and experienced workers make the airport safer for passengers. Providing employer-based coverage reduces taxpayer costs as workers are no longer forced to rely on public programs and county facilities for care.

After the unanimous vote in favor of the update to the living wage, Councilmembers Janice Hahn and Bill Rosendahl joined the Reaching Higher for Healthcare Coalition, a diverse group of healthcare advocates and community, labor and faith-based organizations brought together by LAANE in support of the living wage amendment, at a press briefing. “When we are spending millions to revitalize LAX, the very least we can do is provide quality health care to airport workers and their families, who work so hard and who serve as the face of our city,” said Councilwoman Hahn. “With all of the attention being focused on national health care reform, Los Angeles is leading the way.”

Airport workers were jubilant at the passage of the amendment. “This is a big change for all of us that work at the airport. I can take my children to the doctor, and I won’t have to worry about medical bills if one of us gets sick,” said Jesus Govea, who has worked at LAX for five years. “It will make the airport a better place to work. And, if we are healthy we will be able to do our jobs better.”

Many of these workers and their families live in areas with the lowest rates of healthcare insurance coverage in Los Angeles County, which means that LAANE’s work will improve healthcare coverage in the communities that need it most.