Airport workers protest security law

Bay City News Service
Monday November 26, 2001

Angry airport security screeners at Oakland International Airport today rallied in protest of a clause in the new federal aviation security law that requires that the workers be U.S. citizens. 

The Oakland Airport employees — as well security screeners at San Francisco International Airport — fear that their jobs are in jeopardy as approximately 50 of the East Bay workers are legal permanent residents, but not U.S. citizens. 

Approximately 20 of the workers picketed outside an Oakland Airport terminal this afternoon, some of whom left their shift to join the protest. 

“These workers are very, very angry,’’ Andrea Dehlendorf, spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union Local 1817, said. “They’re being denied the opportunity to continue a job they having been doing for years.’’ 

“While the Aviation Security Act makes many positive improvements to strengthen airport security, the citizenship requirement will result in the displacement of thousands of existing airport security screeners around the country and approximately half of the workforce at Oakland International Airport,’’ Dehlendorf said.  

Union members say requiring that all security workers are U.S. citizens is an unfair and discriminatory requirement that will create “a terrible precedent against hardworking, tax-paying legal immigrant workers.’’ 

They say, “Citizenship is not required for members of the U.S. armed forces, the National Guard, pilots, flight attendants or other airport workers’’ who are working together to tighten security at airports across that nation in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Security screeners at San Francisco International Airport cancelled a “sick-out’’ scheduled for today, which was planned to protest the same issues surrounding the U.S. citizenship requirement. 

No one from the chapter of the union that represents that SFO employees, SEIU Local 790, was available to comment today, however airport spokesman Ron Wilson said last week that “about 25 to 60 of (the SFO) screeners are non-citizens.’’ 

“But they’re doing good job. They’re friendly. We don’t get a lot of complaints about them,’’ Wilson said last Monday, the day President Bush signed the federal aviation security act into law. 

Airport security screeners at Los Angeles International Airport are staging a similar protect at LAX this afternoon.