American Airlines Ground Workers' Union Puts Tentative Deal on Hold


Jun. 4--The union that represents thousands of American Airlines ground workers said Thursday that it has suspended its tentative agreement with the Fort Worth-based carrier.

The move comes less than a week after the agreement was announced. Union leadership said at the time that while the proposed contract's terms were not satisfactory, it would still be presented to the membership for a vote.

"If we can't recommend it, we're not sending it," Transport Workers Union International President Jim Little said Thursday. "Certain issues on the bargaining table had not been resolved."

Little did not elaborate on what those issues are, although both parties met this week to try to settle them.

The contract under discussion covers 10,600 baggage handlers and other ground crew workers.

American said Thursday that it still believes the tentative agreement is fair. The proposed terms include pay increases and more holiday pay, while about 230 workers would be affected by outsourcing and several hundred more would be affected by job reclassification among cabin cleaners.

"We will work with the TWU to understand their concerns," said American spokeswoman Missy Latham. "We expect that we can resolve any issues and be able to proceed with the development of specific contract language for the [tentative agreement] in preparation for sending it to TWU-represented employees for ratification."

American has said that job cuts would occur through attrition and that it is offering workers at several airports, including Dallas/Fort Worth, a voluntary separation allowance of $25,000.

It is unclear how the TWU's decision to suspend the temporary agreement will be viewed by federal mediators. According to the union, the National Mediation Board had insisted that union members be allowed to vote on the company's contract proposal before mediators would declare an impasse in the years-old negotiations.

Under the Railway Labor Act, airline unions cannot strike until federal mediators declare an impasse and a 30-day cooling-off period expires. The TWU asked the mediation board to declare an impasse in March, but the board told the parties to keep talking.

And in a note to union membership last week, the TWU negotiating committee said the mediation board would not schedule anymore negotiations between American and the union until possibly next year if members were not allowed to vote on the offer.

The TWU's action on the fleet services contract does not affect tentative agreements it has recently reached with American for its mechanics, maintenance technicians and store clerks.