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Laid off LAX concession workers claim they’re owed more than $100,000

A group of laid off LAX concession workers held a protest Friday, alleging concession giant HMS Host owes them more than $100,000 for violating the airport’s living-wage ordinance.

After delivering a “past due” notice to the company’s El Segundo location, the employees — represented by Unite Here Local 11 —  formed a car caravan and headed to the district offices of all 15 Los Angeles City Council members’ district offices.

They are urging the council to reject a lease and rent-reduction package for HMS Host and other companies that was approved last week by Los Angeles World Airport’s governing board. The package is awaiting the council’s vote.

After delivering a “past due” notice to HMS Host’s El Segundo office, the employees — represented by Unite Here Local 11 —  formed a car caravan to visit the district offices of all 15 Los Angeles City Council members. (Photo courtesy of Unite Here Local 11)

To be eligible for relief, concessionaires must be in compliance with all city ordinances, and Unite Here claims HMS is not in compliance since it allegedly failed to pay an estimated 100 workers the airport’s designated wage.

A representative with HMS said she was unable to comment on the alleged wage discrepancy.

Shorted 50 cents on the dollar

Union spokeswoman Maria Hernandez said employees noticed they were not receiving their full hourly pay of $13.75 after the living wage went up in 2018. They say they were being shorted 50 cents for every hour worked.

Employees filed complaints with the city in 2019, claiming HMS failed to pay workers the correct hourly wage. They have yet to receive any payments to compensate them for the wage violations which are estimated to total more than $100,000.

“We urge city council to stand with workers and reject this relief package,” Hernandez said. “These packages are meant for companies that are struggling, and HMS is not struggling.”

L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin express his frustration with the wage discrepancy in a statement released Friday.

“The living wage at LAX is the law,” he said. “We wrote it to protect our front-line airport workers and to make sure that they can provide for their families. I will vigorously oppose any relief package for Host or for any company that is not in compliance with the living wage ordinance.”

Struggling to get by

Debra Lewis, who worked for HMS for 36 years before being furloughed in March, hopes to be called back to work when the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control. Meanwhile, times are tough.

The 62-year-old Playa del Rey resident is receiving $450 a week in unemployment benefits, but it barely covers her rent. When she was working, Lewis said she earned more than $1,000 a week in tips, with her paycheck going primarily toward paying taxes.

“We were supposed to be getting $13.75 an hour, but the company was only paying us $13.25 an hour,” she said. “I’m angry about it. During this pandemic, we’re all struggling to get by.”

Lewis, who most recently worked at Golden Road Brewery in Terminal 6, said all of the workers are hurting.

“People need to pay their rent, buy food for their families and pay for their healthcare,” Lewis said.

HMS employee Marlene Mendoza said HMS also shorted her pay.

In her complaint to the city, she said she earned $13.25 an hour for the one-year period ending in July 2019 when she should have been paid $13.75 an hour.

Other complaints from HMS workers Geoneva Gonzalez, Maria Alvarez, Nery Sanchez and Alfredo Camberas echoed the same discrepancy.

Unite Here Local 11 represents more than 32,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas and convention centers in Southern California and Arizona.

Source: Orange County Register

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