Teamsters Have Enough Signatures To Force Representation Vote At American Airlines

May 28--The Teamsters union plans to file documents with the National Mediation Board on Tuesday in a bid to represent mechanics and related workers at American Airlines.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters told the Tulsa World it has collected signatures from more than half of American Airlines' mechanics and related workers and will try to force out the Transport Workers Union with a vote this summer.

American Airlines employs nearly 11,000 maintenance workers, nearly half of them at the Tulsa Maintenance & Engineering Center at Tulsa International Airport.

If the National Mediation Board deems the signatures valid, there would be a vote on union representation among American Airlines maintenance workers.

"I wouldn't say the Teamsters don't win every battle, but they do things differently," said Hank Rogish, an American Airlines aircraft maintenance technician in Fort Worth who has been helping organize the Teamsters effort. "They won't just let their membership be decimated the way it has been here."

The Teamsters union plans to make an announcement at a news conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines will have a chance to review the collected signatures and compare them with their list of eligible employees.

The Teamsters union will have a chance to respond to any challenges, and if the signatures are valid it will set up a vote among employees.

A spokesman for the Teamsters said the exact number of signatures collected was not available.

Insurgent unions have been circling American Airlines maintenance workers since the company filed for bankruptcy in November 2011 and embarked on cutting labor costs.

Last November, the TWU said a new contract negotiated with American would give mechanics a 15 percent raise over the next six years, but also would freeze pensions and replace the retirement plan with a 401(k) system.

Teamsters started collecting signatures last June at the behest of some American Airlines mechanics.

The union represents about 80,000 airline workers nationwide, including 18,000 mechanics.

Earlier this month, the Teamsters union filed signatures to represent maintenance workers at US Airways, which is slated to merge with American Airlines by the end of the third quarter.

The International Association of Machinists represents about 4,000 employees at US Airways, which is based in Tempe, Ariz. That union and the TWU have forged an agreement to jointly represent employees after the merger.

Now, the Teamsters could potentially have union representation at both companies at the time of the merger, giving the union control of the largest group of airline mechanics in the nation at the world's biggest airline.

A Teamsters vote at American could be complicated by another challenging union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. An AMFA representative said the union has also collected enough signatures from American employees and plans to file with the National Mediation Board in coming weeks.

AMFA has been trying for a representation vote at American for more than a decade; it submitted signatures to the National Mediation Board in 2003 but fell short of 50 percent.

Groups that submit an insufficient number of signatures to the National Mediation Board are barred from submitting again for a year.


Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380

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