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In the Wake of Tragedy, Piedmont Agents Fight for Improved Safety Conditions

On August 11, 2019, Kendrick Hudson, a 24-year-old American Airlines/Piedmont employee at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, died on the job when the vehicle he was driving flipped over after hitting a piece of baggage on the ground that had fallen from a baggage cart that had not been closed. 

CWA has been participating in the state’s OSHA investigation of Hudson’s death and believes the primary contributing factors were safety hazards that workers report to have experienced in the workplace, including poor visibility on the tarmac at night due to insufficient lighting; baggage on the ground that had fallen from a baggage cart; hard-to-see, painted lines meant to direct vehicle traffic on the tarmac; and limited stability of the tug vehicle Hudson was driving, causing it to flip over after it hit the piece of baggage.

As a result of the investigation, on January 29, Piedmont was cited for three serious violations by the North Carolina Department of Labor, and given a long list of safety recommendations that they must respond to in writing.

CWA members are also alerting elected officials and the public about the safety hazards that all Piedmont agents are facing. Last month, CWA Local 3645 Vice President Donielle Prophete testified at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation to call on Congress and American Airlines to address serious safety concerns for airline workers.

"Our local union had repeatedly raised concerns about inadequate lighting with Piedmont management. American is a highly profitable company and pays out billions to wealthy shareholders and executives. Yet, American is cutting costs and outsourcing passenger service work to low-wage contractors and regional airlines like Piedmont," Prophete said.

Local 3645’s executive board and members, as well as Piedmont members across the country are determined to make sure an incident like this will never happen again, and will continue to fight for improved safety conditions at all stations.

“Our wish is that the investigation will result in much needed improvements to make work on the ramp safer and to prevent anyone else from dying on the job,” Prophete told Congress.