September 23, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Queens, NY—After 22 years, passenger agents working for American Airlines just won representation with the Communications Workers of America. Liz Puente-Almodozar has been working as an airport reservation agent for almost 33 years at JFK Airport, first for TWA and then American Airlines. She said it was a long struggle, but she and her co-workers never gave up.
“It feels awesome. I’m just very thankful and grateful. I can’t even tell you how I’m feeling right now. I’m just very happy,” said Puente-Almodozar in the accompanying video interview.
The old TWA airline used to be a union shop, but when the company merged with American Airlines in 2001, she and her colleagues lost union representation because American’s passenger agents were non-union. When asked about the difference in working conditions between the two companies, Puente-Almodozar said she felt she had better protections while working for TWA.
“I just felt with the union we’re more protected. At TWA, I felt more secure. Coming into American, I’m grateful for the job, but I saw a lot of my colleagues leave, saw a lot of outsourcing. And this is why I said we need a union, we needed someone to speak for us,” she said.
According to the CWA, Ms. Puente-Almodozar is one of 9,000 passenger service agents, most of them working in the South such as Texas, North Carolina and Florida, to win representation by a vote of 86 percent for and 14 percent against. American Airlines and US Airways merged in 2013, so the agents join the union ranks with nearly 6,000 US Airways who already had CWA representation going back to 2000 for a total of almost 15,000 members to be covered by a new collective bargaining agreement.
Larry Cohen, CWA’s president, noted in an interview with In These Times that the agents’ victory is a huge victory for workers in the South, particularly after the recent defeat in Chattanooga, Tennessee when autoworkers failed to win UAW representation after fear mongering by leading Tennessee politicians.
“The lesson here is, ‘Never stop,’” he told In These Times.
Twenty-two years is a long time to campaign to win union representation, so we asked Puente-Almodozar in the accompanying video to join us in singing a couple of verses from the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like an Eagle 1970s hit to signify their victory.