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Southern workers vote big to have a union on their side

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Organize the South!

Big news in the effort to build a new southern workers movement came last week:

9,000 American Airlines passenger service agents, after a 19-year struggle, joined together today in a vote with the members of the US Airways CWA-IBT Association to form a new bargaining unit of 14,500 agents at American Airlines. It is the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades.

Three-quarters of the agents work in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona and 2,300 are home-based reservations agents.

By an 86 percent vote, airport and reservations agents overwhelmingly chose representation by the Communications Workers of America-Teamsters Association in the National Mediation Board election; results of the vote were announced this afternoon. US Airways and American Airlines merged to form the New American Airlines in 2013.

The vote clearly shows that workers who can make a fair choice about union representation want bargaining rights. New American agents are concentrated in southern states, and work at diverse locations, including large and smaller airports, call centers and at home. Across every group, they voted for bargaining rights and union representation.

With the win at American Airlines, thousands of North Carolina workers now have a union on their side, including Eula Smith, a customer service agent in Charlotte.

"We feel stronger now with this vote," said Eula.

"I'm a 60-year-old woman with 42 years with this employer. You can’t live in the South and make a decent wage unless you are in senior management in a corporation or belong to a union. We need this." -- Eula Smith

This victory for customer service, reservations, and ticket counter and gate agents was "a victory for all American Airlines employees," said Ken Grunwald, a 23-year-reservations agent working at the call center in North Carolina.

“I’m proud to remember everyone over the years who worked so hard for our union voice, who never gave up in the face of adversity, and who gave their blood, sweat and tears so that we would have the opportunity to celebrate this victory today. It’s a victory for all American Airlines employees! I'm so excited to think that we will finally be able to negotiate a legally binding contract. We now all have each other’s ‘back'." -- Ken Grunwald

US Airways passenger service agents, like Vickey Hoots of Winston-Salem, already had union representation. "This win was a long time in coming, at American Airlines, just as it was at US Airways," said Vickey.

"I'm so proud of all our members and we’re excited that we will be able to negotiate the industry leading contract that our members deserve." -- Vickey Hoots

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