A long campaign and nationwide effort by the tens of thousands of passenger service agents represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to protect all airline employees from physical and verbal abuse by passengers succeeded on Wednesday, January 11. After more than a decade of mobilization around this serious safety issue, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that a 2002 statute (49 U.S.C. § 46503) that set criminal penalties and jail time for persons who commit assaults against airport or air carrier employees with security duties in fact does apply to passenger service agents, as well as to TSA and law enforcement officers.
As a result of this decision, and CWA’s work to ensure these safeguards, passenger service agents at every airport in the nation now can be assured that “air rage” incidents they face as they perform their critical safety roles will be prosecuted. Agents at all airports regularly endure luggage and equipment thrown at them, as well as punches, slaps, and verbal abuse from angry passengers. Without the protections of federal law, these workers had little recourse and abusive passengers usually faced no consequences.
The DOJ ruling is a direct result of CWA passenger service agents’ petitions, letter-writing campaigns, sit-ins, and meetings with members of Congress and officials of the Departments of Justice and Transportation. Agents reacted immediately to the announcement.
“I’m thrilled that I went to DC and made a difference. I feel so proud that telling our stories in DC and in meetings here in Texas moved this. Now we need to make sure that management backs us up and enforces this.”
—Chris Kress, AA, DFW
“This is a victory for the employees of the airlines and our customers and their families that no one will have to be exposed to violence in our nation’s airports”
—Tom Robertson, Envoy, JLN
“I’m thrilled that we’re now under the same protective umbrella as other airline employees. We’re on the front line: when passengers get mad we hear about it first. It’s a great victory. It looks like all of our work paid off. United action really works.”
—DeAnna Davis, Envoy, BPT
“Most of the people we spoke to about this issue didn’t even know it was that a big of a problem for me and my co workers. It was just a matter of knocking on some doors, making some meetings, and being loud and proud about my problems. Being on the other side of it feels amazing. I’m really grateful to have a more safe work environment.”
— Amanda Mitchell, Envoy, DFW
“This is a huge victory, our local has been working on this for a number of years. This is long overdue and necessary, and this is something we’ve done for all airport employees!”
—Barbara Tobin, President Local 13301
“Absolutely the best news I’ve heard in the airline industry. A long overdue protection that has been needed to protect all employees.”
—Linette Franks, SGF, Envoy
“I was a part of a group that lobbied in Washington to get the airport rage bill modified to include passenger service agents. I also visited with a senator from DFW and I’m extremely happy that the bill now includes passenger service agents. A lot if agents had the perception that congress didn’t listen to us but this is proof that our voices were heard and now agents feel more safe while doing there job knowing that they are protected.”
—Takisha Washington Gower, DFW, Envoy
CWA is moving forward on the next steps to ensure that the decision is fully implemented at all airports and by all airlines.