Nearly 10,000 U.S. passenger service agents at bankrupt American Airlines are voting in a union representation election in which the company or the Communications Workers of America may challenge up to 10 percent of the ballots, officials said.
The election, which is being conducted by the National Mediation Board via Internet or telephone balloting, began Tuesday and will conclude at 1 p.m. Jan. 15.
In a volatile campaign that has gone to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, the CWA is vying for the ballots of 50 percent plus one of the passenger service agents found eligible to vote by the National Mediation Board.
Challenges of voter eligibility are likely from both sides, company and union representatives said.
CWA Organizing Director Sandy Rusher said American has tried to pad the voting lists by adding 900 passenger service agents who have not worked for the company for a year or were hired in recent months in an attempt to dilute the percentage of “yes” votes.
“The cutoff date for (voter) eligibility is Dec. 2, the payday before we filed our petition for representation on Dec. 7, 2011,” Rusher said. “American has also tried to disenfranchise agents by seeking to exclude from the voting lists agents who just lost their jobs and have recall rights, as well as those still working during the voting process but have plans to retire.
American spokesman Bruce Hicks said the company sought court action to stop the election because a majority of passenger service agents did not want a union election.
“We believe that all agents and representatives who will be part of the future of the new American should be allowed to participate in this vote,” Hicks said. “It's disappointing that the union would argue that nearly 1,000 people it wants to ‘represent' should not have a say in this election and in paying union dues.”
Voter eligibility in the representation election will be determined by the National Mediation Board.
Union officials said American's passenger service agents, including 26 at Tulsa International Airport and 22 at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, are without a voice in the company's bankruptcy layoffs and cuts in pay and benefits.