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2 unions aim to share American Airlines workers

Updated: May 14, 2013 7:58PM



DALLAS — Two major unions are seeking to avoid a fight and instead share representation of ground workers at American Airlines after the company merges with US Airways.

The unions represent nearly 30,000 workers at the two airlines, and a deal might help both fend off challenges by the Teamsters.

The Transport Workers Union, or TWU, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAM, said Tuesday that they will form a council to negotiate a single contract with the post-merger American Airlines.

“This agreement allows us to use our combined strength and resources on behalf of all our members,” TWU president James C. Little said in a statement.

IAM president Tom Buffenbarger called the deal with TWU “a true demonstration of solidarity.”

The TWU represents mechanics, bag handlers and other employees at American, while IAM represents ground workers at US Airways.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka had urged the unions to share representation and avoid bitter and divisive election campaigns against each other. He said the unions needed to focus their organizing efforts on workers who don’t already belong to a union.

TWU and IAM are AFL-CIO members and both are being challenged by the Teamsters, which is not part of AFL-CIO. Last week Teamsters officials said they gathered enough support at US Airways to force an election to decide who represents the airline’s ground workers. They said they were close to qualifying for an election at American, too.

Larry Ocheltree, a US Airways mechanic working on the Teamsters’ organizing drive in Charlotte, N.C., said the agreement between TWU and IAM won’t impress his co-workers.

“You have two groups that have done a poor job of representing the separate groups,” said Ocheltree, who added that US Airways mechanics earn less than peers at other carriers. “This is a last-ditch effort to maintain representation because they’re going to get voted out.”

A fourth union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, is also trying to woo TWU members at American’s maintenance facility in Tulsa, Okla. Some of those workers were discouraged that thousands of jobs have been outsourced or eliminated since American and its parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.

American and US Airways Group Inc. expect to close their merger before the end of September, and then take 18 months or longer to combine into the world’s biggest airline.



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