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Latest News - February 2012

February 22, 2012
American Airlines Agents Press Bankruptcy Judge to Bar AMR Corp. From Making Unilateral Changes in Compensation, Conditions, While Union Representation Election Proceeds
Source: Business Wire, CWA Press Release
By: Chuck Porcari

The Ad Hoc Committee of Passenger Service Agents, representing agents at American Airlines, filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court today to prevent AMR Corp. from making unilateral changes in the wages, benefits and working conditions of American Airlines agents.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has helped the airport, cargo, and reservations agents create the Ad Hoc Committee so this group would have standing in bankruptcy court. On Jan. 27, AMR attorneys and the bankruptcy judge recognized the standing of the committee; AMR has tried to ignore the committee but clearly that isn’t working.

On Feb. 1, AMR Corp. announced it would make changes to compensation and other employment terms of non-management workers who do not have a union. On that same day, AMR presented specific proposals for changes it wanted in the collective bargaining agreements of the union groups and currently is bargaining with them. While AMR has not told those without union representation all of its plans for cuts for those workers, it has said it wants to terminate their pension plan, eliminate their subsidy for retiree health care, dramatically increase active employees’ health care costs, and cut jobs.

In its motion to Judge Sean H. Lane, the Ad Hoc Committee of PSAs strongly objected to such changes, especially since a petition for a representation election among agents was filed by CWA with the National Mediation Board on Dec. 7, 2011. Passenger service agents already have been hit with wage and benefit cuts, beginning in 2003 when AMR cut wages by 4.75 percent and eliminated a scheduled wage increase of 3 percent. Workers who are classified as home-based employee agents, about 26 percent of all reservations representatives, receive lower wages and benefits.

Since CWA has filed to represent the workers, with strong support among passenger and reservations agents, allowing AMR management to make changes in the current compensation and working conditions of agents would violate the Railway Labor Act, which requires that “laboratory conditions” be maintained while the NMB is processing the petition.

The Ad Hoc Committee also told the bankruptcy judge that AMR should be prohibited from making unilateral changes during the period between CWA’s certification as the agents' bargaining representative and the approval of an initial collective bargaining agreement.

Agents’ concerns that AMR management will act quickly to cut wages, benefits and working conditions are real. AMR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29, 2011 with the express goal of reducing labor costs, despite having $4 billion on hand.

Bryan Wall is a Sacramento-based agent. He says: “The company has already said it wants to outsource jobs. I know as an agent in a small station my job is in jeopardy if we don't get CWA representation. The company can't do whatever it wants to with the union groups, it has to negotiate. With our upcoming union election, already in the works, I think the company should agree to wait to make changes until after our election. This way we can negotiate a contract that would work best for us and the company.”

Evelyn Eng, a Los Angeles-based agent, stressed that American Airlines’ cost-cutting will hurt passengers as well as workers. “If American Airlines outsources, you won’t get the same quality service as you would from an American Airlines employee. Our passengers deserve the best, and we long-serving agents are the best qualified people for the job!”



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