PHOENIX – Clergy, community leaders and legislators from across Arizona converged on America West Airlines’ offices here, Oct. 10, to express their support for AWA workers’ right to organize with an election free of interference by the bosses.

Arizona State Representatives John Loredo and Meg Burton Cahill called it “unethical” that AWA is using public funds to interfere with America West employees’ right to a fair election. Monsignor Ryle, of the Phoenix Catholic Archdiocese, and Dick White, of the East Valley Interfaith Council, appealed to management to stop the anti-union tactics and abide by the law. More than 65 percent of the approximately 4,000 customer service representatives (CSR) have signed authorization cards to be represented by the Teamsters Union. The CSRs work at more than 50 airports and reservation centers across the country. Nearly half are based in Phoenix and Tucson.

On Aug. 21 the Teamsters filed for an election on behalf of CSRs at America West. The election, which began on Oct. 11, will be completed on Nov. 8. This will be the largest private sector representation election this year by the National Mediation Board.

America West has a notorious history of disregarding workers’ rights and labor laws. In 1995, AWA fired hundreds of mechanics who had voted for Teamster representation. Their plan to “outsource” the mechanics’ jobs hurt workers and jeopardized passenger safety – ultimately leading to the largest fine ever issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. AWA eventually rehired the mechanics and negotiated a contract.

AWA hired a high-priced union-busting firm and launched a campaign of intimidation, harassment, threats of benefit loss, and is engaging in a long list of anti-union practices.

Through the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, American taxpayers have provided a $380 million loan guarantee for the airline. The company has also received $110 million as part of the bailout after Sept. 11.

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net

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