We heard good news last night from the National Mediation Board (NMB) via the Communications Workers of America (CWA): the NMB will move forward with a union election at American Airlines affecting almost 10,000 passenger service agents.
As I wrote in May, American has stonewalled a union election long enough through its illegal refusal to hand over an employee list to the NMB. It was time for American to comply with the law or for the NMB to move forward with an election. Unfortunately, American refused to comply with a legal NMB order for an election in May leaving the agency with no other choice but to conduct the election using an employee list submitted by passenger service agents and the CWA. The NMB has done the right thing here.
Time is not on the side of employees. They face the brutal reality of bankruptcy and severe workplace changes sought by American management including massive job cuts and outsourcing. The company doesn’t want to negotiate with a union – it just wants to implement any changes it wants when it wants.
Fortunately, the NMB has stepped in to give these workers the chance they’re entitled to under our labor laws. The vote will occur between June 21 and August 2, with the vote tally announced August 2. It would be nice to see these workers gain a union voice before the company slashes jobs and wages. As the CWA notes in its statement, this is a company that filed for bankruptcy with $4 billion in the bank and now wants to start outsourcing services within 45 days. That was American’s plan all along in delaying the union vote – they wanted to cross the proverbial finish line in bankruptcy court without having a union involved in the process on behalf of the passenger service agents.
American’s misguided attempt to circumvent the law was noticed by several key congressional leaders such as Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Nick Rahall and George Miller and Sens. Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin, who called on American CEO Thomas Horton to obey the law and play fair.
The NMB has protected the integrity of its rules and procedures while ensuring that American’s passenger service agents are not denied their legal right to vote on whether to unionize. Rogue conduct by American was trumped yesterday by the rule of law.