Unions trumpet historic win in American Airlines vote
Reservation agents at Texas-based American Airlines have voted overwhelmingly for union representation, in a move that labor organizers hailed Tuesday as a historic win in the South.
The agents chose to join with US Airways agents to form a bargaining unit of 14,500 employees at the new American Airlines. The two airlines merged this year, taking American’s name.
The combined group of airport and reservation agents will be represented by the Communications Workers of America-Teamsters Association. The CWA called it “the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also praised the vote, saying it proves that the “future of the U.S. labor movement is alive.”
“It should not be lost on the pundits that most of the nearly 14,500 new union members work in southern states,” Trumka said in a statement. “The right to a voice at work doesn’t have a geographic predisposition, and this victory will energize ongoing organizing efforts in the South.”
Of the 9,000 American Airlines service agents, roughly 86 percent supported the vote for union representation. US Airways agents have been members of the CWA since 2000.
The win came seven months after the United Auto Workers lost a hard-fought unionization vote at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which organizers had hoped would represent a similar Southern milestone. Unions still face tough headwinds nationwide, including a long-term slide in membership and hostile laws passed in once-friendly states like Wisconsin.
Carroll Locklear, a Texas reservation agent, said in a statement released by the CWA that she had been “praying for this day” in her 18 years with American Airlines.
“We have been the odd employees out for so long, because we were the only employees without union representation,” she said. “Gone are the days that management can take what want when they want. This will be a win-win for all of us.”
American Airlines pledged Tuesday to work with the union.
“With today’s election results, union representation for our three largest workgroups is now settled, and we will be working with each of those unions on joint collective bargaining agreements covering the combined employee groups,” airline spokesman Paul Flaningan said.