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Judge blocks union election at American Airlines
FORT WORTH, Texas—A federal judge has blocked a union-organizing election for nearly 10,000 employees at American Airlines. Judge Terry R Means ruled Friday that the Communications Workers of America needed signed cards showing that at least 50 per cent of the eligible workers were interested in union representation to earn an election.
The union had argued that it needed 35 per cent, the standard until Congress changed the rules in February. The union applied for an election before the change. The union gave notice Friday that it intends to appeal the judge’s decision to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It also will appeal a ruling that barred it from joining the case.
American sued the National Mediation Board, a federal agency that oversees union elections, after the board scheduled voting among nonunion ticket counter and airport gate agents. Judge Means, who oversaw a brief trial in his Fort Worth, Texas, courtroom this month, ruled that the 50-per cent standard applied by the time that the mediation board got around to reviewing the union's election request in April.
He issued an injunction barring the board from conducting any further election-related activities. “This decision is a disgrace and a travesty,” said Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers. She pointed to comments from Senate authors of the bill containing the 50-per cent rule, who said it was not to be applied retroactively.
Bruce Hicks, a spokesman for American, said the case was simple. Current law requires support from at least 50 per cent of employees before an election can be held, he said, and the union “admitted it was unable to meet that mark.” The dispute had gained attention outside the airline industry. Leading Democrats in Congress had asked American to allow the election to go forward.
The ruling comes as AMR Corp.'s American, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November, separately seeks to break contracts it negotiated with other unions that represent pilots, flight attendants and mechanics.
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