Transport Workers Seek a Seat at the Table in US Airways/American Airlines Merger Case

Transportation Workers Union Logo -TWUCase will go forward despite government shutdown

Washington, DC – The Transport Workers Union has taken legal action in federal court to protect the jobs, pay and benefits of its members, TWU President Harry Lombardo said today.

The TWU, Lombardo said, is seeking intervenor status in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the proposed merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways. The case will go forward despite the current government shutdown, under terms of an order issued on Oct. 1 by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

“We represent workers at both airlines, and the livelihood of our members is at stake” said Lombardo. “That’s why we filed for intervenor status.”

More than 23,000 TWU members work at American Airlinesand American Eagle in seven crafts and/or classes, including: Mechanics and Related, Fleet Service, Materials Logistics Specialists, Dispatchers, Ground School and Simulator Pilot Instructors, Maintenance Control Technicians and Flight Simulator Technicians.

Three hundred employees of US Airways are also TWU members in the Flight Dispatch, Flight Crew Training Instructor and Flight Simulator Technician crafts and/or classes.

“TWU members have been involved with intense negotiations with current management at American Airlines and at US Airways,” said Lombardo. “We don’t see any reason for the Department of Justice to be involved in the merger process – but if this case is going to court, our members deserve to be heard.”

As a result of negotiations with airline management during the bankruptcy of American Airlines and talks leading up to a merger agreement with US Airways, TWU members at the new American Airlines will receive a four percent pay raise if the merger is successfully completed, as well as a 4.8 percent equity stake in the new company.

The TWU filed for intervenor status in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 30th.  On Oct. 1, Judge Kollar-Kotelly denied a request by DOJ attorneys for a stay of the proceedings due to the current government shutdown. Employees of American Airlines and U.S. Airways, the judge noted, “have a vested interest in adjudication of this case without delay.”

The Transportation Workers Union Elects New President Moving Union In New Direction

Transportation Workers Union Logo -TWU 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.”

Immediate Action

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.

Transition

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.

Transportation Workers Union Call For DOJ To Drop Suit Against Airline Merger

Transport Workers to Deliver Petition with Thousands of Signatures to U.S. Dept. of Justice Offices in Tulsa Thur., Calling for End to Lawsuit Aimed at Blocking the American-US Airways Merger

Transportation Workers Union Logo -TWUJobs at American Airlines’ Maintenance Facility, Tulsa’s Largest Private Sector Employer Placed in Jeopardy by DoJ’s Misguided Interference

 Tulsa  – A caravan of vehicles driven by members of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 514, employed at the American Airlines maintenance base, will deliver a petition with more than 8,000 signatures to the U.S. Department of Justice’s office in Tulsa on Thursday, August 29.

Airline workers and supporters are calling for the government to drop its irrational lawsuit against the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways.  The merger will protect good-paying U.S. jobs and give consumers the only real chance for competition with the Delta-United duopoly, which currently dominates the U.S. airline industry.

“We put this on the Internet a couple of weeks ago, and it’s spread like wildfire,” said TWU Local 514 President Dale Danker. “People just can’t understand why our own government is trying to block a merger that’s pro-competition, pro-consumer and that protects good-paying U.S. jobs.”

More than 8,000 signatures calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to drop the government’s lawsuit against the proposed merger were collected all over the United States, said Danker.  They are being delivered in Tulsa, where American operates the largest remaining U.S.-based hub for aircraft repair and maintenance.  With 6,000 workers, the airline is the largest private-sector employer in Tulsa.

AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, is ready to emerge from a difficult two-year bankruptcy process with a plan to merge with U.S. Airways.  The proposed merger would create, for the first time in years, head-to-head competition with Delta and United and an American Airlines more able to compete with foreign carriers.

“The DOJ says this merger is anti-competitive. Actually, it’s their lawsuit against the merger which will block competition,” said Danker. “Neither American nor US Airways alone can effectively compete against Delta or United, which means the duopoly will eventually control more routes, raise prices even higher and give consumers fewer choices.”

“If this merger goes through, it will protect the jobs of our members and allow us to give consumers excellent service and real choice.  If DOJ succeeds with its wrong-headed attempt to block this merger, we’ll lose jobs and income, and consumers will have fewer choices at a higher cost.  That’s why we’re asking Eric Holder to reverse course and drop the DOJ lawsuit.”

The union also has sent a letter to Attorney General Holder requesting that he meet with TWU members.

Think you’ve got retirement benefits? Think again.

Really, truly: what is happening in Detroit is more important to you than the Zimmerman jury sequestration details.  Or the Rolling Stone cover.  Or any of the other things that have been distracting us lately.

Detroit has gone bankruptWhat’s going on in Detroit could steal our families’ financial security.  It could radically alter what our lives are going to be like, here in New Hampshire, when we can’t work any longer.

Here’s the short version:  four months ago, the Republican Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, named bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr to be “emergency financial manager” of the City of Detroit.

Yesterday, Attorney Orr filed a petition in federal court to have the city declared bankrupt.

What’s he looking for?  High on his list: debt relief from the city’s obligations to its current and future retirees.

This is where you need to start watching, really closely.  Depending on which accounting method is used, Detroit’s pension systems are either 91.4% funded or 69.3% funded.

The New Hampshire Retirement System “presently has a funded ratio of 56.1 percent.”

Yes, Detroit’s pension funds are in a lot better financial condition than ours is.  Yet Attorney Orr says their unfunded liability is too large, and he has asked a federal court to give the public employer “relief” from its retirement obligations.

Sound familiar? Down in West Virginia, thousands of people have been protesting a bankruptcy judge’s decision to let Patriot Coal off the hook for its retirees’ benefits.

And in Oklahoma, American Airlines retirees are waiting to see if a bankruptcy judge will let their employer renege on long-promised benefits.

Yes, using bankruptcy to evade pension obligations has been a problem in the private sector for decades now.  But just last month, it became a problem for public sector employees, too.

During bankruptcy proceedings for Stockton, California, a federal judge ruled that the city could use bankruptcy to relieve itself of the obligation to provide retiree health benefits.  “The liability for retiree medical benefits is estimated by the parties to be in the hundreds of millions.”  Stockton retirees are having to settle for a single lump sum payment of $5.1 million.  That’s barely pennies on the dollar, for a debt owed to people who spent their careers in public service.

And now Attorney Orr is trying to take Detroit down that same path toward “debt relief”.

Think it couldn’t happen here?  Think you can rely on the 1984 constitutional amendment, Article 36-a, that was meant to protect New Hampshire public workers from raids on our retirement benefits?

Probably City of Detroit workers thought their 1963 constitutional amendment would protect their retirement benefits, too.

What’s really going on here?

During the 2007-2008 Wall Street meltdown, public pension systems across America lost more than a trillion dollars in value.   Yes, that’s “trillion” – with a “T”.

And now that our pensions are a trillion dollars underfunded, they’re being attacked as “unaffordable”.  (Aren’t you glad Bill O’Brien isn’t still Speaker of the NH House?)

Any guesses on how many other Republican governors and mayors will soon be trying to “restructure” their way out of obligations to public sector retirees?

————

Back when I worked for Republican politicians, they truly believed in the sanctity of contracts (such as employers’ contractual obligation to pay long-promised retirement benefits).

In fact, when they talked about “core functions” of government, the enforcement of contracts was right up there at the top of the list.  After all, how can the economy function if parties aren’t required to live up to their contractual obligations?

Perverting the bankruptcy process to obtain “relief” from contractual obligations… well, that wasn’t anywhere in the playbook, back when I worked for Republicans.

————

Can’t help but notice…

The very same day that 30,000 Detroit public workers learned their financial future was on the chopping block, thanks to losses from the 2007-2008 Great Recession…

…over there on Wall Street, the Dow hit another record high.

This S#*^ Needs To Stop Before We Completely Destroy Each Other

Secretly I have been watching the situation unfold at US Airways.  No I am not taking a trip. I have been following this because I am very dishearten to hear that the Teamsters are moving in to try to take the representation rights away from the Transportation Workers Union.

I was first alerted to this when I got a press release with this title, “Teamsters Raid on American Airlines Mechanics and Related Workers”.  If you follow this blog regularly you probably already know that I did not post this press release like I do with many others.

Labor unions have serious problems in the eyes of the public. Many see us as outdated, worthless organizations that only promote laziness.  Those of us who work inside labor movement know this is the farthest thing from the truth.  Yet actions like this from the Teamster are dangerous to our movement.  I want to make it very, very clear. I have great respect for all of the Teamsters I know.  They are very hard-working men and women.  The IBT has had it fair share of ups and downs over the years but anyone who stands up for workers is a winner in my book.

However I disagree greatly with this move by the IBT to go after jobs that are currently represented by the TWU.  This make no sense whatsoever.  We need to expand our ranks, not cannibalize them.  This is also a very bad time to try to take these members away.  US Airways and American Airlines are in the middle of a merger.  When companies merge, there are usually job losses.  Change unions during this delicate negotiation process could result in even more job losses.

The TWU Air Transport Director Garry Drummond had this to say about the upcoming elections:

“Many mechanics signed cards calling for an election between unions because they believe in democracy, ironically a vote for the Teamsters means that democracy would be suspended. If the Teamsters were to become the bargaining agent, under federal labor law, elections for new local leaders wouldn’t happen for as long as three years. Meanwhile critical negotiations with the ‘new’ American Airlines will take place before the end of the year. Workers at the new American would be voiceless during these crucial contract talks.”

I am reminded of the problems that the IBT has been having with Republic Airlines. They have gone for years now working without a contract. They even threatened to strike.  Now is not the time to switch from one representative to another.

Workers deserve a voice in the workplace and these workers have already chosen who will represent them. Now the IBT is using the same tactics of the vulture capitalist that unions protect workers from.  This corporate raiding is wrong and needs to stop.  Let me reiterate, I have nothing against the IBT overall, I disagree with this raid on the US Airways workers.  I hope for the sake of all the workers involved that the TWU retains their representation rights and this matter is ended.

We need to be working together, not fighting each other.  We are all in this fight together.  We all want what is best for the workers.  This S@#$ has to stop.

Transport Workers and Machinist Union to Jointly Represent Ground Workers at the “New” American Airlines

TWU and IAM Logo

TWU and IAM Logo

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) today announced a partnership to jointly represent nearly 30,000 ground workers at the “new” American Airlines following the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

This week the two international unions have signed joint agreements to cover the Mechanic & Related, Fleet Service, and Stores employee work groups at the soon to be merged airline. The new labor partnership, to be known as the TWU/IAM Employee Association, will ask the federal National Mediation Board (NMB) to hold elections among the combined employees for each classification after the close of the American-US Airways merger.  The election will formalize the joint-council agreement reached this week.

“I am proud that our two great unions put the members first in a true demonstration of solidarity,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “These agreements protect our members’ representation, pensions and seniority. Working jointly with the TWU, we will ensure both unions’ members are rewarded in this merger.”

“This agreement allows us to use our combined strength and resources on behalf of all our members as we move forward at the new American Airlines,” said TWU International President James C. Little.  “Both unions have decades of experience representing workers at US Airways and American Airlines and both unions are members of the AFL-CIO.”

Following certification, negotiating committees comprised of an equal number of representatives from each union will begin working out the details of collective bargaining agreements to cover the combined carriers’ employees.

The accords reached this week, designate which union will enforce a post-merger agreement in specific cities, as well as providing a mechanism to designate contract enforcement responsibilities if the carrier expands to new markets.

The IAM currently represents Mechanic and Related, Fleet Service, and Stores employees at US Airways; TWU represents these classifications at American. TWU also currently represents aircraft dispatchers, flight crew training instructors and flight simulator engineers at both airlines. Additionally, IAM represents Maintenance Instructors at US Airways.

The full agreements and a Question and Answer document are available at both the IAM website www.usaamerger.com and at the Transport Workers Union’s website: www.twu.org.

Why It Is So Important For American Airlines Workers To Hold Union Election

Sixteen former and current American Airlines passenger
service agents lobby Senate offices.  Credit CWA Union

American Airlines has been pushing back against their employee unions for quite a while now.  They recently resolved their dispute with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) to avoid possible strikes and airline shutdowns.   However they are continuing to push back against service agents who are awaiting the upcoming election of CWA as their employee union.

This election has been very ugly. American Airlines have been doing every possible thing they can to delay the election with the hope that it would never happen at all.   They have even been ‘outsourcing’ agent jobs.  They are hiring inadequate contractor to clean their planes, and check in passengers.

With the help of CWA, workers are taking their case straight to Washington D.C.  Below is a recent post from the CWA Union Blog that explains what they are doing and why it is so important to hold these elections.

Below: Agents and their supporters rally
outside American Airlines Washington office.
2_American_Rally

Original Post from CWA 

American Airlines passenger service agents aren’t backing down.

On Friday, 16 former and current employees — including some who were even facing layoffs at the close of business — visited U.S. Senate offices to raise awareness about American Airlines’ dirty campaign to delay their right to vote in a union election. Then the agents and CWA supporters rallied outside American Airlines’ lobbying office in Washington, D.C., to focus public attention on the airline’s anti-democratic campaign to stop the vote.

American Airlines’ actions have shown that it doesn’t care much about its workers or passengers. AMR, the airline’s parent company that filed for bankruptcy last year, continues to outsource jobs across its system, hiring low-paid contractors for hundreds of gate and ramp agent positions at the height of the busiest holiday travel season of the year.

“My last day was Tuesday and they put us out on the street with nothing,” said Sylvia Solis, a former passenger service agent at Miami International Airport. “The outsourced people don’t know how to check in an infant, and they think JFK is London. They do not have the slightest airline industry background.”

Renee Similien had worked the First Class check-in counter at Logan Airport in Boston for the past 12 years until Friday, her last day of formal employment at American Airlines. She said she was working 50-60 hour weeks for the past several years saving for her child’s college tuition, and her salary maxed out at $50,000 a year. “Everyone who was at max pay was kicked out,” she said, adding that her replacement is currently making $9 an hour without benefits.

Following the orders of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the National Mediation Board scheduled an election for nearly 9,700 American Airlines agents to vote on union representation beginning December 4. Despite two determinations from the appeals court ordering that the vote go forward, American Airlines now is seeking a stay of those decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.

AMR recently announced that since it filed for bankruptcy last November, it has spent over $200 million on fees and expenses related to the bankruptcy. Of that, AMR paid $19.5 million to the New York City-based law firm Paul Hastings LLP, to help the airline throw out existing union contracts and stop passenger service agents from voting in their democratic election.

Take 2 Minutes To Help Workers At American Airlines Find Their Collective Voice

From Beth Allen, Communication Workers Of America

Normally I’d be excited to let you know that because of your support, workers at American Airlines will finally get to vote for union representation next month. But this vote has me worried.

American Airlines has used every trick in the book to deny their passenger service agents the chance to vote to join CWA. Heck, they’ve even written some new chapters, claiming in court that an election would cause “irreparable harm” to the company’s relations with its employees.

Each delay has given the airline time to lay off more workers and outsource more jobs. Now they’ve asked the Supreme Court to intervene to stop the election. If they get their way, there’s no guarantee that this election will ever happen.

American Airlines passenger service agents are in Washington today, meeting with members of Congress about the election delays. Support these workers by asking your members of Congress to tell American Airlines CEO Thomas Horton to stop the delays and let the agents vote.

Why do the workers want Congress to weigh in? Well, over the past year American Airlines’ actions have shown that it doesn’t care much about its workers or passengers. Outsourcing has not only led to job loss, but hundreds of flights have been delayed as undertrained contractors took over the jobs of experienced workers.

But Congress passes a lot of legislation that affects how airlines do business, so the opinions of members of Congress matter to CEOs like Thomas Horton.

During this long battle the National Mediation Board, the Department of Justice, and even the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has told American Airlines that the election must go forward.

It’s time to stop the delays. Send your letter today.
http://action.cwa-union.org/c/1372/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5048

American Airlines Service Agent Deserve A Voice Not To Be Outsourced

American Airlines is once again sticking it to their unions.

American Airlines (AMR) is still spending millions of dollars to block the service agents from holding their election.  The election would officially recognize the Communication Workers of America (CWA) as the sole representation of the workers.  This election has been held up for months due to a technicality over the percentage of people who say they want the union representation prior to the elections.

“We filed for this election almost a year ago and the company has been uncooperative from the beginning,” said CWA Organizing Director Sandy Rusher. “What are they afraid of? They know what we know – a union will give agents a voice and a seat at the table. Agents haven’t given up and we won’t give up on them.”

Two American Agents event went to Congress looking for assistance with this matter. See the video here.

No matter what American Airlines says the hard working agents are not giving up.  The agents and CWA have been fighting for their election for months and now they will finally get the vote they are asking for.

American Airlines agents will vote for representation beginning Dec. 4, when voting instructions will be mailed, and ending Jan. 15, 2013, under a schedule announced Nov. 1 by the National Mediation Board.

“After more than a year of needless delays, we finally can vote to form our own union, to secure a real voice on the job,” said Anne McCarthy, BOS. “It’s about time,” added Ted Tezino, SRO. “This shouldn’t have been in the courts in the first place. To all the agents out there who are undecided, I say wake up and see what’s going on! The company is not on our side.”

Ted is right American Airlines is not on their side.  A local Dallas TV station aired this story on the problems American Airlines is having with their third party contractor (embeded below).

The story highlights that the third party contractor may not have the proper clearance and credentials to access the secure side of the airport.  They have also been receiving numerous complaints on the work these contractors have been doing across the country.  These contractors are reportadly responsible for over 300 flight delays in their first two days.

These are only some of the horrors being brought to light about this outside contractor.

Agents for American Airlines need to know that without a union their jobs will be outsourced too.  AMR will cut your job, just to hire you back at less pay and no benefits.

Stand up for your rights and get out there and vote between Dec 4 th and
Dec 7 th.
 Get all the information about how to vote and make your voice heard!

 

My name is Matt and I stand in solidarity with the Service Agents at CWA!

 

CWA For American Airlines Will Finally Get To Vote

The Communications Workers of America commends the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. For passenger service agents at American Airlines, who have been fighting for a union voice for 15 years, this is extremely good news.

Today’s unanimous decision dismisses claims by American Airlines that have blocked the democratic election rights of nearly 10,000 passenger service agents for far too long.

The appeals court found that the lower court “erred in exercising jurisdiction.” Now, the National Mediation Board can go forward with the election process that had been wrongly denied American Airlines passenger service agents since they filed for union representation in December 2011. Those employees finally will have the opportunity to exercise their legal right to vote on union representation.

The same American Airlines executives who took the airline into bankruptcy with $4 billion in the bank, which now has grown to $ 8 billion, also spent millions trying to stop workers from exercising their democratic rights.

Passenger service agents look forward to the NMB setting a new election date as soon as possible.

“This was a big step towards being able to negotiate instead of having them dictate terms to us,” said Janet Elston, a veteran of 28 years as an American Airlines gate agent based at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. “It’s been grueling, it’s not easy, but it will be worth it once we have an election.”

Ted Tezino, who has worked for 11 years at American Airlines’ Southern Reservation Office, noted the bankruptcy has made their situation as employees clear;

“The company is not on our side, and it’s time to stand up for ourselves,” Tezino said.

This is a great step forward for the workers at American Airlines, across the country.  Workers will not get the chance to have a voice in their workplace and work towards bettering the lives the people who work so hard to make American Airlines run.