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Court says American Airlines agents may vote to unionize

Agents and CWA laud the decision, say it’s “extremely good news”

American Airlines Inc. (AA) is striking out in its effort to prevent its employees from voting on whether to unionize.

In August, a judge denied AA’s request to scrap the collective bargaining agreement it has with its pilots’ union. Then, yesterday, in a similar suit, the 5th Circuit denied the airline’s request to block nearly 10,000 of its passenger agents from voting on unionization.

Yesterday’s decision reverses a lower court’s ruling that would have blocked the agents’ unionization efforts from moving forward. In its decision, the circuit court said the lower court “erred in exercising jurisdiction.”

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), who have been working with AA’s agents on their unionization efforts and seek to represent them, lauded the 5th Circuit’s decision. “The Communications Workers of America commends the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit,” the CWA said in an Oct. 3 press release. “For passenger service agents at American Airlines, who have been fighting for a union voice for 15 years, this is extremely good news.”

AA agents are also openly pleased with the outcome. “This was a big step towards being able to negotiate instead of having them dictate terms to us,” Janet Elston said in CWA’s release. “It’s been grueling, it’s not easy, but it will be worth it once we have an election.” Elston is an AA gate agent based at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. She’s been with the company for 28 years.

AA has also been making headlines recently over its worse-than-usual flight delays, which have been blamed on its labor disputes with pilots. AA pilots are expected to authorize a strike later this week.

The airline filed for bankruptcy almost a year ago.

Read more about the 5th Circuit’s decision on Thomson Reuters.

Read InsideCounsel’s ongoing coverage of AA’s legal woes:

American Airlines’ bid to abandon pilots’ contracts fails

American Airlines reached tentative contract agreement with pilots union

American Airlines’ union election temporarily blocked

America defends its lawsuit against pilots union

Pilots’ union sues American Airlines

American Airlines files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy


Cathleen Flahardy

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