Appeals court to review ruling that killed union election at airline

A federal appeals court will review the ruling by a Republican judge in Texas that killed a union election at American Airlines on grounds that it could cause “irreparable harm” to the company.

The federal appeals court in New Orleans agreed yesterday to take the Communication Workers’ case against the airline’s blockage of a union representation election for passenger service workers.

The announcement yesterday by CWA President Larry Cohen was important because the earlier ruling by the GOP-appointed judge in Fort Worth, Texas was the first ruling ever that the scheduling of a union election could cause “irreparable harm” to a company.

The election, involving 10,500 workers, had been scheduled for this summer but was called off by the GOP judge in Fort Worth earlier this month. Fort Worth is the headquarters for American Airlines.

The GOP judge had also agreed with American that the CWA had not filed enough cards for the union recognition vote.

Cohen described, in a telephone call, the details surrounding the case.

He said that after a long organizing campaign his union filed cards from more than 30 percent of the workers last December. By filing lawsuits and delaying as much as possible, Cohen said, the airline saw to it that the National Mediation Board, which runs union-management relations at airlines and railroads, could not rule on the union’s petition for a vote until May.

By that time, he explained, Congress had changed the election rules. Now, rail and air unions must get cards from an absolute majority of workers they want to represent, before the NMB can schedule a vote. The GOP judge, U.S. District Judge Terry Means, said the union failed to meet that standard.

Cohen said the ruling of the District Court judge was “outrageous” for several reasons.

“Even in bankruptcy,” Cohen said, “American Airlines was able to stop a union representation election by finding a judge who agreed with them that a union election would hurt company morale.”

Compounding the injustice, he said, was the fact that “American filed for bankruptcy protection just after the union’s Dec. 7 filing for the election.” The company wanted to use bankruptcy, he said, to fire thousands of the airline’s 55,000 workers and to dump pension plans.

Cohen said, in the phone call, that many lawmakers were supporting the union. He noted that on July 25 more than 100 in Congress had written American Airlines, urging the company to drop its legal maneuvers and let the election go forward.

Photo: Simon_sees // CC 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of