By Nate Raymond
Oct 3 American Airlines, Inc lost a court battle
in its effort to block a vote by nearly 10,000 passenger service
agents on whether to unionize.
Wednesday's decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in New Orleans came amid a separate labor dispute by the
airline's 8,000 pilots and its parent company, AMR Corp.
, which filed for bankruptcy in November.
The pilots are expected to authorize a strike later this
week, escalating a long-running labor dispute that has already
created serious flight delays at the nation's No.3 carrier and a
public relations nightmare for AMR Corp.
The appeals court ruling reverses an earlier decision by
U.S. District Judge Terry Means in Fort Worth, Texas that
blocked the agents' union election from going forward.
The Communications Workers of America, which is seeking to
represent the agents, welcomed the latest ruling and said in a
statement the agents had been prevented from a vote on whether
to organize "for far too long."
The CWA also represents reporters at Reuters News.
American Airlines sued the National Mediation Board in May,
asserting that the agency had authorized the election based on
an outdated standard for deciding if there was enough support by
workers to unionize.
A law that took effect in February raised the proportion of
employees required to sign cards stating they wanted a union
vote to at least 50 percent, up from 35 percent.
Judge Means blocked the election in June, finding that the
50 percent standard applied to the CWA's application to
represent the agents.
But in a two-page order, a three-judge panel of 5th Circuit
said the trial court "erred in exercising its jurisdiction." The
court said review of National Mediation Board decisions was only
warranted when the board has committed "egregious error."
In a letter to American Airlines employees provided to
Reuters by a company representative, the airline said the
panel's ruling implied that the "50 percent law" may still apply
and may ultimately preclude a valid election.
The National Mediation Board will now need to schedule a new
vote, said Chuck Porcari, a CWA spokesman. The vote had
initially been scheduled for between June and August 2012, he
The case is American Airlines, Inc. v. National Mediation
Board, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-10680