NATIONWIDE – Thousands of Communications Workers of America (CWA)-represented passenger service agents at American Airlines subsidiary Piedmont Airlines won major raises, improved benefits and other gains in a new tentative contract agreement reached Friday.
The 4,600 agents work across 28 states and have been bargaining for a new contract with the company since February 2017. At a company and in an industry where many agents are paid poverty wages so low they’re forced to rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance, the agents are celebrating the victory.
“Courageous passenger service agents have been standing up for family-sustaining jobs at American Airlines, and it’s because of their determination and commitment to winning a fair contract that thousands of hard-working agents at Piedmont will see big improvements in pay and benefits after this long and tough fight,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. "Working people joining together in unions to negotiate remains the best way to achieve the fair return on their work that they deserve."
The agents work at some of the nation’s biggest and busiest airports as well as smaller regional airports that connect flyers to travel destinations around the country. They provide services essential to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for flyers, such as managing pre-flight checks, de-escalating tense situations and helping passengers re-book their flights during inclement weather.
Other contract highlights include stronger healthcare benefits, vacation policies and steady opportunities for raises. The specific details of the agreement will first be disclosed to and discussed with the agents.
"The CWA bargaining team worked hard to reach this agreement, which recognizes the professionalism of passenger service agents at American Airlines' Piedmont subsidiary and the critical role they play in the success of the company," said Richard Honeycutt, Vice President of CWA District 3 and Chair of CWA's Passenger Service Airline Council.
In addition to the Piedmont agents, CWA represents 3,800 agents at American subsidiary Envoy and 14,000 passenger service agents at American Airlines. Agents at Envoy are paid as little as $9.48 an hour and have been bargaining for their first contract for two years.
CWA President Shelton met with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker in early December to make it clear that CWA was holding American accountable for the low wages at its Piedmont and Envoy subsidiaries. "Agents, their CWA family and working people nationwide won’t stop fighting until American Airlines lives up to its role as an industry leader and agrees to a fair contract with wage increases at Envoy Air as well," Shelton said."We are confident that now that we have broken through at Piedmont we will shortly achieve an agreement at Envoy." The next bargaining session for the Envoy Air agents is scheduled for the week of January 29.
The passenger service agents, other CWA members and elected officials have been sounding an alarm on the poverty wages at regional carriers while American Airlines reports strong financials, just yesterday posting $1.9 billion profits for 2017. In recent weeks and months, agents and other CWA members rallied at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Philadelphia International Airport and Douglas International Airport in Charlotte to talk with passengers about their poverty-level pay and tell American to invest in its workforce.
A growing number of Members of Congress have signed onto a letter to the American Airlines CEO, urging him to “rapidly and equitably conclude your collective bargaining negotiations and ensure that all of your employees can earn a living wage.”
CWA is a driving force that is supporting and winning for workers nationwide as they join together for good jobs. Late last year, 21,000 AT&T wireless workers across 36 states and DC won a game-changing tentative agreement that rolled back the trends of offshoring and outsourcing and raised pay for tens of thousands of workers. CWA was also behind the 2016 victory for nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who went on strike for 45 days and won a major contract that added 1,300 new call center jobs and reversed several other outsourcing initiatives that created new field technician jobs across the country.