LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SEIU United Service Workers West today reported that airport workers from Menzies Aviation and the widow of Cesar Valenzuela, who died while working at LAX earlier this year, called for good, safe jobs at LAX at today’s California Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment hearing.
Representatives from the airline industry and Menzies were invited by the committee to participate in a panel, but they did not show up to the hearing.
Cal/OSHA is still looking into the causes of the accident, but news accounts say Cesar fell out of his tug and was run over by the cart he was towing. The coroner’s report recently revealed the vehicle Cesar was driving did not have a functioning seat belt. Despite knowledge of the non-working seat belt, Menzies tried to blame Cesar for failing to wear a seat belt in media reports.
The missing seat belt comes after the airline industry and their contractors were warned by OSHA of the federal seat belt requirement in 2012, following the death of a ramp worker, in another US airport, who was ejected from his vehicle.
Menzies’ safety record is troubling. Cesar is the fourth Menzies worker to die following workplace accidents in California airports over the past eight years, a total of three deaths at LAX and one at SFO.
Last summer, Menzies was fined nearly $95,000 by Cal/OSHA for unsafe practices, including the type safety of violations that can cause serious harm or death. One of the citations was for failing to comply with federal seatbelt rules. During the Cal/OSHA investigation, Menzies attempted to block inspectors from entering airport premises, forcing the agency to obtain a search warrant.
“For years we have said our jobs at LAX are unsafe but the airlines, their contractors and the airport authority ignored the problem,” said Jose Orellana, a ramp agent with Menzies Aviation at LAX. “I hoped that Menzies would clean up their act after the Cal/OSHA fines. But now it’s just like it was before. Vehicles breakdown and are not repaired. I’ve had to use tugs with missing seatbelts and brakes that don’t work.”
Now facing intense scrutiny from lawmakers and the media, the airport authority has just recently begun to consider the cancellation of Menzies’ license; however, to date no action has been taken.
Airport workers, Cesar’s widow and local communities are asking airport authorities and political leaders why an unsafe company like Menzies is allowed to continue operating at California’s airports.