Thirteen Arrested At MSP In Dispute Over Pay For Wheelchair Workers

June 17--People protesting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday sat down in the road in front of the main terminal, blocking traffic but not affecting flights, a spokesman said.

Airport police arrested 13 people for unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor, said Patrick Hogan, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman.

Those arrested included leaders in the disability-rights community, community activists and Service Employees International Union Local 26 President Javier Morillo-Alicea, according to the SEIU website. More than 100 people went to the airport commission's monthly public meeting before the protest and civil disobedience, the site said.

"The arrestees were highlighting the poor conditions facing passengers with disabilities and elderly travelers, a consequence of the poverty wages and lack of resources provided to the workers subcontracted by Delta Airlines to provide wheelchair and electric-cart service," the SEIU site said.

MAC is "not aware of any instances at MSP in which travelers ... have been denied the services owed to them under law, and when we receive complaints about the level of service, we work with our tenants in an effort to address those complaints," Hogan said. "Many of the examples SEIU cited to highlight the issue were actually incidents at other airports, not MSP."

On Monday, some protesters sat down on the upper-level road in front of the ticketing area about 2 p.m., Hogan said. Police closed the roadway for more than 30 minutes, diverting traffic to the lower-level road in front of the baggage-claim area, he said.

SEIU has been working with employees of Air Serv -- a contractor of Delta whose workers clean airplanes, push wheelchairs and drive golf carts to transport people with disabilities around the airport -- but doesn't represent them, Hogan said.

Delta spokeswoman Kate Modolo said Monday that the airline takes "great pride in providing a positive travel experience for our customers with disabilities. ... Delta retains an Advisory Board on Disabilities comprised of several nationally recognized experts to help us continually drive improvements in service to customers with disabilities."

Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262. Follow her at twitter.com/MaraGottfried.

Copyright 2014 - Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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