Piedmont Airlines and Envoy Air Passenger Service Agents from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to share their stories with Congress and to ask for support in their efforts to win living wages and fair contracts for the 9,000 passenger service agents who service flights for American Airlines' wholly-owned subsidiaries, Piedmont and Envoy.
Darryle Williams, a passenger service agent who has worked for 11 years at Piedmont Airlines in Charlotte, N.C., said, "The visit to the Senate and House was very effective. It gave us a chance to give a personalized account of what really happens at Piedmont and what type of working conditions we're under – from not receiving livable wages to 60 to 70 hour work weeks. We have a food bank at the airport for people who work full-time and don't have enough money to buy meals. We're not asking for wages that are going to take people into another income bracket, we're just asking for livable wages."
American pays a living wage to "mainline" passenger service employees who work under the American name. However, workers at Envoy and Piedmont – who wear the same uniform and do the same work as those at American, but fly under the "American Eagle" banner – earn poverty wages, with few possibilities for increases. At Piedmont, pay starts at $8.50, and at Envoy it starts at $9.48. A recent survey of 900 Envoy agents found that 27% must rely on food stamps or another form of public assistance to get by.
Nau Lavaka, a passenger service agent of 11 years at Envoy in Dallas, Texas, said, "We want American to be fair and pay Envoy and Piedmont workers a livable wage. We all work side by side in the airport with American Airlines workers. I love my job, that's why I've been there so long. When I first started 11 years ago, the starting rate was $9.00. It's 11 years later, and the starting rate is $9.48, it only went up $.48."
Passenger service agents at Piedmont and Envoy do everything from managing pre-flight checks and guiding planes on the tarmac to helping passengers re-book their flights due to weather. To passengers, Piedmont and Envoy passenger service agents are the face of American Airlines.
Meanwhile, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker recently told CNBC, "I don't think we're ever going to lose money again." American earned $1.9 billion in profits in 2017, and its profits are expected to rise even higher in the next few years as a result of the recently passed Republican corporate tax cut bill.
Envoy workers are more than two years into efforts to win a first contract, and its bargaining team is set to return to negotiations with the company at the end of May. Piedmont Airlines workers are about to send their bargaining team into mediation with the company after a year of negotiations.
Piedmont Airlines and Envoy Air Passenger Service Agents from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to share their stories with Congress and to ask for support in their efforts to win living wages and fair contracts. Below, left to right: Envoy agent Martha Chentis of Chicago; Envoy agent Scott Hosler of Toledo; Envoy agent Susanne Skowronski of Chicago; American Airlines agent Ingrid Paredes of Miami.