Airline's agents vote for union

Service employees at US Airways cap two-year effort

August 21, 1999|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Passenger-service agents at US Airways Group voted yesterday to join the Communications Workers of America, capping a two-year effort to unionize that had been stalled in federal court.

About 5,215 employees voted in favor of union representation, more than two-thirds of the 7,800 employees eligible to vote.

"It was clear from the start that passenger-service employees would again choose representation," said Morton Bahr, CWA's president. "They've been building their union for nearly two years."

The gate and ticket agents of the Arlington, Va.-based airline cast their first organizing ballot in early 1997, falling short of the required majority. But the union successfully petitioned the National Mediation Board for a new vote, claiming that the company had interfered.

A second vote was cast in favor of representation, but was overturned in May by a federal appeals court, which ruled that the first vote should not have been voided.

Only workers employed in 1996 were eligible for yesterday's vote, but the number of represented employees at US Airways has grown to more than 10,000. The CWA represents 630,000 workers nationwide.

US Airways' relationship with its employee unions has been bumpy at times. Earlier this year, its 9,000 flight attendants demanded federal arbitration because the carrier had failed to reach an employment contract with them after more than two years of negotiations.

US Airways has raised the salaries for passenger-service employees by 13.7 percent, a concession granted four days after the federal court overturned the unionization vote. Union officials said the company was taking credit for something the union had negotiated.

CWA officials said they plan to resume bargaining talks with the airline shortly.

US Airways is the second-largest carrier at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

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