The Transport Workers Union of America, which represents workers at major transit systems in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco along with workers in railroading, gaming and commercial airlines — including more workers at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines than any other labor union — this week elected a new leadership team that promises a more aggressive approach in its dealings with employers.
Las Vegas – After a hotly contested election campaign, Harry Lombardo was elected by acclamation to lead the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU). Lombardo in his remarks to delegates pledged to take a more aggressive stand with employers, to beef up the union’s lobbying efforts in Washington and the states and to restructure the union in order to apply more resources and manpower to TWU and AFL-CIO -sponsored campaigns.
Support for the American Airlines/US Airways Merger
The new TWU International President voiced support in principle for the merger and strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Justice’s interference in the merger process. “The DoJ’s blocking of the merger has already led to layoff notices in Tulsa where we represent aircraft maintenance workers and blocked raises and the distribution of stock to more than 20,000 hard-working TWU ground workers at American,” said Lombardo.
“If the merger does move forward, and since management has committed to growing the airline, there is no reason that management can’t commit to protecting every job on the property,” the newly-elected president added.
Fighting Outsourcing in Public Transit and Commercial Airlines
Lombardo and his running mates also pledged to redouble efforts to fight privatization of public service jobs along with the outsourcing of aircraft maintenance to overseas repair stations. “Our national political figures talk a good game about creating jobs,” said Lombardo, “but government has become either a sponsor of outsourcing or an enabler. In public transportation we are seeing foreign companies like Veolia and First Transit taking over more and more public transit operations. In commercial airlines, overhaul work is being shipped to China, El Salvador and other overseas locations with lower standards of quality and security and little oversight from the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Lombardo went on to say, “We’re even seeing companies like Southwest Airlines that historically have had good relations with TWU and a culture of labor/management cooperation push for increased use of low-wage outsourced workers who lack company loyalty and who are not part of the company culture. This shift in company policy has been clear in our prolonged negotiations for ground workers at Southwest.
We will not go quietly on this issue of outsourcing.”
Lombardo immediately took several decisive actions that were approved by convention delegates. Among the changes:
- More control will be given to local unions in dealing with employers rather than through International and divisional officers.
- The union’s governing board, the International Executive Council, will now have a greater number of local union officers. Senior staff will be removed from the Council.
- TWU will restructure to strengthen both state and regional conferences and reassign staff to serve these groups including additional staff to deal with political and legislative campaigns. In particular, this will allow the union to be better prepared to deal with attacks on bargaining rights, public employee pensions and other challenges and to advocate for additional transit funding.
- The union will invest more resources in strategic planning and research for contract campaigns. TWU also will provide training to its local leaders on better methods to communicate to the public and cutting edge tactics to bring pressure to bear on employers.
On Thursday afternoon, Lombardo will lead busloads of convention delegates and guests along with Allegiant Air flight attendants to a protest outside Allegiant’s Las Vegas headquarters. TWU recently organized flight attendants at the discount carrier but management has refused to agree to a first contract and the airline’s practices of leaving passengers stranded or routine hours-long delays has become an issue for the union as well as consumers.
Up From the Ranks
Harry Lombardo began his career as a transit worker in Philadelphia in the 1970’s and led Transport Workers Union Local 234 in Philadelphia as local president during a strike against SEPTA in 1995. Prior to his election this week, Lombardo served on the national level as the union’s International Executive Vice President.
A New Team
Joining Lombardo is a new team of leaders:
John Samuelsen, currently serves as President of the 39,000–member TWU Local 100, representing transit workers in New York City. In addition to his duties in New York, Samuelsen will assume the position of Executive Vice President of the international union.
Alex Garcia, who previously served as the union’s political director and prior to that was president of an American Airlines local in Miami was elected to the position of Secretary-Treasurer.
John Bland, a veteran of TWU’s transit division and Gary Maslanka who directs the union’s railroad division were both elected as Administrative Vice Presidents.
Lombardo and the rest of the leadership team took office immediately after the election results were announced. Each was elected to a four-year term.
Since 2006, TWU was led by James C. Little who announced two months ago that he would not be a candidate for reelection after the Lombardo slate formally announced their candidacy. Joseph Gordon, the union’s Secretary-Treasurer during the Little years announced a campaign for union president and fielded a slate of candidates, but withdrew from the race prior to the convention.
TWU’s 24th quadrennial convention is being held at Las Vegas’ Mirage Hotel through September 27.