Dec 4 American Airlines passenger service
agents, the only major employee group at the carrier not
unionized, began voting Tuesday on whether to be represented by
the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union.
About 9,700 airport agents and reservations representatives
are eligible to cast ballots in a vote being conducted by the
National Mediation Board (NMB), said Chuck Porcari, a CWA
spokesman. Voting ends Jan. 15.
"All of the other work groups at American are unionized, and
we're not," said Bridget Powell, a passenger service agent with
American and union activist. "When it comes to negotiating with
the company, we don't have that option."
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the vote last
week when it denied American's request for a stay of an earlier
ruling that upheld the election.
"We're encouraging all our eligible employees to vote,"
American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said. "It's a very
important election for them."
American says it sought to block the union vote because at
least half of the eligible workers didn't show interest in
joining a union, as required by a law that took effect this
The NMB said that the older, 35 percent standard should
apply because the union had filed for an election before the law
changed earlier this year, according to the CWA.
The CWA says a union is needed to protect American's agents,
who perform tasks such as checking in passengers and taking
customer service calls, as the company has been outsourcing
agent jobs and cutting pay and benefits.
American parent AMR, which has about 80,000
non-management employees, is reorganizing under Chapter 11
bankruptcy protection in an effort to cut costs. Earlier this
year it reached agreements with its unionized flight attendants
and ground workers on contracts that it said cut costs by 17
American's pilots are due to wrap up voting on a tentative
agreement on Friday that offers an initial 4 percent pay raise
and a 13.5 percent equity stake in AMR after it exits
American offered equity stakes of 4.8 percent and 3 percent,
respectively, in contracts it reached this year with unionized
ground workers and flight attendants.