Airport Workers Backed By Major Labor Union Protest At LAX To Combat ‘Environmental Racism’
Daniel Garrido via Getty Images

Airport workers backed by one of the biggest labor unions in the nation protested at LAX Airport this week for stricter airline emissions regulations to combat “environmental racism.”

The protesters are members of the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) organization, Airport Workers United (AWU).

The protest occurred in front of a departures terminal at the airport. Protestors used the phrase, “No justice, no peace,” a popular chant in Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and riots, as well as the environmentalist alternative, “No clean air, no peace.”

The protestors called on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) — which approved California’s gas-powered car ban — to regulate airline industry emissions like other industry emissions during their next meeting on Sept. 14. CARB will consider increased regulations on the airline industry by adding jet fuel into the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

LCFS regulation currently doesn’t apply to conventional jet fuel, aviation gasoline, deficit-generating fuel used in military tactical vehicles, and certain credit-generating fossil compressed natural gas or fossil propane fuels.

In a press release, SEIU-UWW said that the airline industry is the fourth-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, causing “extreme heat” and disproportionate levels of respiratory disease among minorities.

“Airline emissions also contain various particles and chemicals that contribute to drastically increased levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases in airport workers and the predominantly black and brown communities surrounding LAX,” stated the press release.


Featured speakers at Thursday’s protest included workers JoVann Houston and Oscar Antonio, as well as Democratic California State Senator Henry Stern.

Houston claimed that environmental racism was to blame for her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an inflammatory disease which causes breathing issues.

“Environmental racism is a disproportionate impact of environmental hazards of people of color,” said Houston. “Communities of color are more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods, and as a result we suffer the highest rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease.”

Houston has been a featured face of SEIU advocacy for stricter emissions regulations since March 2020, as well as increasing the minimum wage to $25 or more an hour.


In June, Houston was invited to testify on behalf of the SEIU before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the Biden administration’s proposed changes to carbon pollution standards.

Antonio claimed that he and his co-workers developed various breathing ailments due to working at LAX. He echoed the union’s advocacy for airlines to lower the carbon content of the jet fuel they use.

“Since working at LAX, I developed pneumonia. My coworkers have developed chronic respiratory diseases,” said Antonio.

Featured in the protest was a poster that read: “Airline Emissions Are Killing Black and Brown Communities.”

Stern said that airlines have too much of an emission impact under their present practices that even a drastic measure like shutting down every Los Angeles highway wouldn’t make a difference. Stern fully supported California’s total vehicle electrification through its ban of new gas-powered cars. The EPA gave California special permissions for the ban in March.

“We have to hold jet fuel to the same standard that we hold all other fuels to,” said Stern. “If we have to clean up, they have to clean up.”

A month after approving California’s gas car ban, the EPA proposed a similar crackdown nationwide.

Regulations of the airline industry in the name of combating climate change have resulted in drastic policy changes with outsized economic impacts.

Last October, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) pledged during its annual assembly to reach net zero emissions by 2050; during that same assembly, the United States was elected to join ICAO’s Member Governing Council as one of 10 states of chief importance in air transport. W. Brent Christensen serves as the nation’s representative on the council; Christensen formerly served as the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy from 2018 to 2021.

John Kerry, the nation’s first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, applauded the ICAO pledge. Kerry, a member of the Forbes family, was former President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

In April, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general warned Bloomberg panelists that proposed “sustainable” aviation fuel would result in steep airline ticket prices. In May, France banned short-haul domestic flights to make headway on its goal of carbon neutrality. Like the U.S., France was elected one of the ICAO Member Governing Council states of chief importance in air transport last year.

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