Setting the Record Straight for Home-Based Representatives

Thoughts from Erieka Butler, American Airlines HBR, MIA-Res:

I started with American Airlines this March, as part of the first class of home based agents in the Miami area.  For me, and many of my co-workers, working from home was a great opportunity that allows me to earn an income while continuing to provide my family with the care they need.

For the company though, hiring these positions instead of ones in reservation centers aren’t about employee welfare, it’s about the bottom line.

The home based program seems deliberately designed to keep us as powerless as possible during the first year, if majority of the HBR’s make it to that point.

Erieka Butler portrait

Since my initial training there have been two follow up meetings, so pretty much everything I need to know about my job I’ve learned through trial and error or with the assistance of RSD, which sometimes is a challenge.

Turnover is horrendous, and combined with the fact that most of our interaction with management comes from quality monitoring, or having an auto exception entered on your record, or disputing a customer compliant, most home based agents I know are in a more or less constant state of fear for their jobs.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. We know the American Airlines CEO and other executives all have contracts, don’t we deserve that too?

Before this job I worked for years at AT&T, where CWA represents employees, and the differences could not be clearer.

A lot of the new employees I’ve talked to seem to have some misconceptions about unions, so as a former CWA Shop Steward I’d like to set a few things straight.

Having a voice on the job with CWA means we would no longer have to worry about the whims of individual supervisors, we would be able to ensure a standard and fair practices system wide when it comes to important things like shift scheduling and monitoring.

It means that for things like healthcare, where home based agents only option has huge deductibles, we would be able to use our collective power to achieve a better deal for everyone.

I’m not saying a union will solve all of our problems overnight. In the recent bankruptcy, the union groups all took hard cuts, although definitely not as much as our workgroup. But the bigger difference is the union groups had a chance to decide how to make those cuts, they had some voice in the process.

And, after all, isn’t having a voice, even an imperfect one, better than having no voice at all?