Joint Campaign Off And Running

June 13, 2013

Agents from American Airlines and US Airways on Wednesday officially launched a joint campaign to gain a strong voice at our new merged airline with representation by the Communications Workers of America. Joint mobilization training sessions are underway with US Airways agents, who are already members of CWA, and that interaction will increase as the two companies move closer to merger.

CWA President Larry Cohen announced the initiative during a Town Hall Call with agent activists from both airlines, pointing out that the new management for the merged airline mostly comes from US Airways, where CWA already has a working relationship. “No longer will we have to face a vicious union-busting campaign like they ran at American Airlines,” he said. “We may have some differences with US Airways management, but union-busting is not part of their culture.”

Cohen cautioned, however, “We can’t do this for you. We must do it side by side. We will support you and help you organize and gain a voice at this new gigantic airline.” Critical to that effort, he said, is “breaking down the entire unit of 15,000 agents into groups that you all can work with, to bring the best information to them so they understand the importance of the strong organization we are building.”

The activists heard from two agents each from American Airlines and US Airways, including Eula Smith, a US Airways agent from Charlotte who is organizing a mobilization structure at 12 smaller airports, with 12 station coordinators enlisting other activists to “take 10” others to talk to. “We call them BFAWs – Best Friends At Work. We need to make sure that there isn’t one employee who doesn’t get the information that is necessary.”

Joint training sessions have been particularly illuminating for American Airlines agents, said Wendell Johnson, who works at JFK in New York. “We were amazed to hear how different it is at US Airways, how they were able to negotiate things we take for granted. And they were amazed at how little respect we get – for example, that we are only given two minutes to get the jet bridge extended to the plane, or we’re written up and the letter is in our personnel files forever. We need contract protections.”

Mahlon Robinson, a 27-year employee at US Airways in Albany, N.Y., has seen the heavy hand of American Airlines management first hand, because he’s married to a longtime American Airlines agent who was laid off when American Eagle was chosen to contract the Albany work. “Then American Eagle reduced service, and then left Albany, so we have no American Airlines or Eagle service at Albany.”

“After going through two bankruptcies at US Airways, I have no doubt that if we didn’t have CWA, I wouldn’t have a job,” he said. “I’m urging everyone to stay informed. If our members are informed and active, our union will be stronger. We’ll have an opportunity to make improvements in our contract and to protect American Airlines agents during the merger process.”

American Airlines home-based res agent Latekia Bush stressed the importance of reaching out to some 1,000 newly hired home-based agents who have been fed anti-union propaganda by American Airlines management. “They need to understand things could be much better,” she said. “We only get three paid vacation days, and no sick days. We have to pay for our own Internet and phone service, and our own computers. The union can make a big difference.”

CWA Organizing Director Sandy Rusher fielded a series of questions from the activists, many of them regarding the merger and representation process. “The timing of the election is up to us,” she said. “Sometime after the merger is approved, we can petition the National Mediation Board to designate our airline as a single transportation system, which will trigger an election.

“At that time we must present a showing of interest of 50 percent plus one of the entire unit – a combination of the dues check-off list for US Airways agents and authorization cards for American Airlines agents. We will be sending out new authorization cards in a few weeks. The old cards are no good any more.”

We will need a showing of interest of at least 8,000 agents to trigger the election, she said. “It’s very important that everyone updates their information – with the company and with the union. When it’s time to vote, the mailing labels will be created from the addresses the company has on file with you. So don’t wait, make sure your address is updated.”

You can ensure you get the latest information on the campaign by updating your contact information with the union.