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American defends its lawsuit against union action

The airline says its decision to try to block union organization is warranted

When American Airlines Inc.’s (AA) ticket counter and gate agents decided to organize a union-representation election, the airline didn’t take too kindly to it. In fact, AA filed suit to block the election that would decide if agents would be represented by the Communications Workers of America, a union that represents workers in various communications professions.

The airline filed suit last month against the National Mediation Board, saying that under a new federal law, the union needed 50 percent support from its agents before an election could take place. The union, however, argued that it only needed 35 percent, which was the mainimum when the union filed for an election at the end of last year.

Democrats in Congress complained about the lawsuit to AA, which is currently in bankruptcy. But the airline is standing by its decision to sue, saying the dispute is "unprecedented" and it "merits a court review before any election takes place."

According to Businessweek, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and two colleagues said Congress clearly didn't intend for the 50-percent standard to apply retroactively. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two other House Democrats told Thomas Horton, the CEO of AMR Corp., AA’s parent company, last week that it was “troubling” that a company in bankruptcy would spend limited resources on a lawsuit to prevent employees from organizing, the Businessweek article said.

This case is only one of AA’s recent union woes. In February, AA’s pilots’ union sued the airline to block AA from imposing new employment terms.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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