Agents Vow to Fight On

January 16, 2013

Agent union activists from all across the American Airlines system vowed to redouble their efforts to gain representation after a multimillion-dollar anti-union campaign resulted in a narrow loss in a National Mediation Board election.

“We only lost by 150 votes,” said Rosemary Capasso, DFW, in one of several conference calls held Jan. 16. “That is nothing. We will get more votes from Dallas-Ft. Worth next time, and I know you feel the same way in Chicago, JFK, Miami. Next time we will win.”

While NMB rules require a year before a new election can be held, the likely merger with US Airways is expected to facilitate the process. Agents at US Airways are already represented by CWA and will not need to sign cards by virtue of their union membership. But American Airlines agents will have to gather enough signed cards to show support from 50 percent of the combined unit.

“We’ve been through these mergers before and it can be lengthy process,” explained Sandy Rusher, CWA’s organizing director. “Once a merger has been approved in the regulatory process, you can petition the NMB to declare the merged airline a single carrier for purposes of representation. That would trigger a vote, but it may take a year to get there.”

Joining Rusher on the call in Washington were three DFW agents who traveled to D.C. to witness the vote count – Capasso, Janet Elston and Salma Kassam, who stressed that we were victorious in coming so close, considering the hurdles put up by the company. “We did really good considering all those obstacles,” she said. “With half the workforce unhappy, it is clear the fight isn’t done. Agents want change.”

Elston described a conversation with CWA President Larry Cohen about the union’s commitment to help the agents. “CWA will not give up on us, as long as we are determined to have a voice,” she said. “Larry (Cohen) said he is behind us 100 percent. They want us to succeed and will help us get to another election. He left us a message in his conference room: ‘Never give up!’”

That was music to the ears of the activists on the calls, many of whom have been working with CWA to gain a union for 16 years. They thanked the CWA organizers that worked with them over the past several years and said this election has made them more committed than ever to win representation.

“As disappointing as this outcome is, we must put it behind us and move forward,” said Capasso. “Starting today, we need to be talking with our fellow agents, asking them what are their most important concerns. We will be ready for the next election.”