SAN FRANCISCO – A crowd of more than 1,000 baggage screeners and their allies gathered at a school auditorium near San Francisco’s airport to demand job security for the screeners whose jobs are threatened by the Bush administration’s requirement that they be citizens to hold their jobs.

The meeting was sponsored by the Bay Area Organizing Committee (BAOC), a coalition of religious, community and labor groups, which has a long record of success in fighting for workers’ rights.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who had backed the successful fight of Service Employees International Union Local 790 for significant improvements in the screeners’ wages from $5.75 an hour to $13 an hour in 2000, was present and pledged his support to the union’s program. Brown said, “SFO’s airport screeners were given strict guidelines with which they had faithfully complied for years. You fulfilled those requirements, you’ve done so better than anybody they could ever select and they ought to leave you alone,” said Brown.

The proposals put forward by the BAOC were enthusiastically approved by the huge crowd in the hall. They were put before the meeting by Tho Do, secretary-treasurer of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 2, and call for:

• Changing the law passed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, which requires baggage screeners to be U.S. citizens, and allow screeners who have applied for citizenship to retain their jobs.

• The Immigration Service to speed up the processing of screeners citizenship applications to approve them in a few weeks, as is done for celebrities or emergency applications, rather than four or five years as at present.

• The U.S. Department of Transportation to allow SFO to be one of the five “exceptions” to the law from the citizenship requirement.

• If the above proposals are not adopted, that the U.S. government provide funds for retraining screeners to other jobs and that they be given priority for other job openings at the airport.

“What’s fair is fair,” said Local 790 Executive Director Josie Mooney. “These are legal immigrants who have worked hard and shown they can do a difficult job. Many of them will suffer a great deal by losing their employment. We should be thankful that we have friends like the Bay Area Organizing Committee to join us in fighting for what is right.”

The authors can be reached at ncalview@igc.org

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