American Airlines passenger agents voting on union representation
BY D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
12/05/12 at 4:17 AM
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Nearly 10,000 U.S. passenger service agents at bankrupt American Airlines are voting in a union representation election in which the company or the Communications Workers of America may challenge up to 10 percent of the ballots, officials said.
The election, which is being conducted by the National Mediation Board via Internet or telephone balloting, began Tuesday and will conclude at 1 p.m. CST Jan. 15.
In a volatile campaign that has gone to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, the CWA is vying for the ballots of 50 percent plus one of the passenger service agents found eligible to vote by the National Mediation Board.
Challenges of voter eligibility are likely from both sides, company and union representatives said.
CWA Organizing Director Sandy Rusher said American has tried to pad the voting lists by adding 900 passenger service agents who have not worked for the company for a year or were hired in recent months in an attempt to dilute the percentage of "yes" votes.
"The cutoff date for (voter) eligibility is Dec. 2, the payday before we filed our petition for representation on Dec. 7, 2011," Rusher said. "American has also tried to disenfranchise agents by seeking to exclude from the voting lists agents who just lost their jobs and have recall rights, as well as those still working during the voting process but have plans to retire.
"As the election begins, they are still trying to throw monkey wrenches into the process."
American spokesman Bruce Hicks said the company sought court action to stop the election because a majority of passenger service agents did not want a union election.
"We believe that all agents and representatives who will be part of the future of the new American should be allowed to participate in this vote," Hicks said. "That includes the thousands of longtime employees who are staying with the company. It includes our employees who have joined the company in the past year. It also includes those who have been offered recall status to offices and positions which will be part of the re-energized airline.
"It's disappointing that the union would argue that nearly 1,000 people it wants to "represent" should not have a say in this election and in paying union dues."
Voter eligibility in the representation election will be determined by the National Mediation Board.
Union officials said American's passenger service agents, including 26 at Tulsa International Airport and 22 at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, are without a voice and facing in the company's bankruptcy layoffs and cuts in pay and benefits.
At some airports, American has replaced cargo agents with low-paid contractors or minimum-wage workers who have no benefits, Rusher said.
"In this case, this is the only group of (American employees) in which they can make any changes any time they want," Rusher said. "They stand to lose control over this group in terms of the conditions of employment. They will try to keep fighting us, but we have the majority of agents on our side, agents who have had enough of being jerked around."
In October, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected American's request to reconsider its decision supporting passenger service agents' right to vote for union representation.
On Nov. 27, the Supreme Court denied American's petition to stay the appeals court ruling.
More than 50,000 of American's 65,000 employees are represented by unions, including the Transport Workers Union, the Allied Pilots Association and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
American Airlines union representation election
Who: 9,700 passenger service
agents, including 26 ticket and
gate agents in Tulsa and 22 in
What: Agents are voting on
whether to be represented by
the Communications Workers of
America or remain independent
When: Balloting began Tuesday,
continues until 1 p.m. CST Jan. 15
Sources: Communications Workers of America, American Airlines
Original Print Headline: Unionizing at issue in American agents' vote
D.R. Stewart 918-581-8451