Big Victory for American Airlines Agents


American agents make the front page of The Dallas Morning News.

A few of the headlines American Airline workers woke up to across the country:

Appeals court says judge erred in blocking union election at American Airlines
Dallas Morning News

American Airlines Loses Effort to Stop Union Election

American Airlines loses ruling on union election
Boston Globe

After fighting 15 years for a union voice, American passenger service agents will at last get to vote.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Wednesday that a lower court had unjustly denied nearly 10,000 workers a union election and "erred in exercising jurisdiction." Now, the National Mediation Board (NMB) can go forward with the long delayed election process.

"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.

Earlier in the week, during the oral arguments, the judges sharply questioned why American unjustly blocked agents' vote to unionize. "You are basically moving the goal posts in the middle of the game," Judge Catharina Haynes told American's lawyer, according to Businessweek.

It's been a 10-month battle to get to an election this time.

Last December, CWA filed a request with the NMB for an election, which was supported by more than 35 percent of American workers, which was what the law required at the time. But as the NMB worked to set an election date, Congress changed the law to require election requests to be supported by 50 percent of workers. The new law went into effect in February, two months after the agents filed, and lawmakers made it clear that the new 50 percent rule would not be applied retroactively.

American has since used every tactic possible to stop workers from voting. After the NMB declared that the 35 percent rule — not 50 percent — would hold in April, the airline refused to provide the names and addresses of employees so they could receive their ballots. So CWA made its own labels.

But then American filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth to block the election, and Judge Terry Means sided with American, saying the 50 percent standard applied. That's when the NMB and CWA appealed.

The appeals court struck down all provisions of Means' decision.