Working In These Times
Judge Blocks American Airlines Union Election
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Terry R. Means, a George H.W. Bush appointee, put a temporary restraining order on the National Mediation Board (NMB) that prevented it from holding a union representation election for 10,000 American Airline customer-service agents. Means put the election on hold because he believed American Airlines would likely win a lawsuit seeking to stop it altogether.
The legal suit stems from a change in law regarding union elections that was passed in February, two months after the Communication Workers of America (CWA) had filed for the election. The change increases the threshold of the percentage of workers needed to file an election from 35% to 50%. The NMB has previously ruled that, since CWA filed for an election before the change in law took place, they should not have to redo their petition to meet the higher threshold. It set the election to begin on June 21, but the judge's ruling stops that election from going forward.
American Airlines responded positively to the news. “Now, as we have hoped all along, the court will have a full opportunity to review and rule on whether or not the correct law was applied in the NMB’s decision to call for an election,” says American Airlines spokesperson Missy Cousino. “We stand by our view that the law prohibits an election from taking place in light of the fact the CWA has publicly admitted that less than 50 percent of our employees supported the union’s election application”.
“The decision by a U.S. District Court Judge granting a temporary restraining order to block the vote by nearly 10,000 passenger service agents means workers, not American Airlines, will suffer irreparable harm – the standard for such an order,” CWA said in a statement. ”Clearly the airline is afraid of workers having their democratic vote and has been fighting hard to stop it.”
CWA District 1 Organizing Director Tim Dubnau says the union is confident that it will eventually prevail in court. Dubnau thinks American Airlines is attempting to delay the election, as he expects the company to lay off 1,300 customer-service agents and he suspects many of those will likely be union supporters. Despite the judge's ruling, Dubnau says CWA is going to continue organizing and that American Airlines' strongarm tactics have actually helped CWA win support from workers who might otherwise be wary of joining the union.
“We have gotten a big uptick in support at nearly all of our locations as a result of it,” says Dubnau. “The company’s behavior has substantiated all of our claims about the company’s bad-faith practices. I have never seen a campaign like this where the support grows as the election grinds on.”