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The Deal: Airline Unions Sign Pact To Ward Off Teamsters

NEW YORK ( TheDeal) -- The unions representing ground workers at merger partners US Airways Group Inc. (LCC) and AMR Corp. said this week that they plan to join forces amid a move by a third trade group to take over representation of the combined company.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represent mechanics and other ground workers at AMR unit American Airlines Inc., and the Transport Workers Union of America said they have signed joint agreements to represent nearly 30,000 mechanics, fleet services and other workers at the soon-to-be-merged airline.

The two groups will request that regulators hold elections among the combined employees after the close of the American-US Airways merger, expected later this year.

US Airways was gaining 1.5% to $19.10 in mid-morning trading.

"This agreement allows us to use our combined strength and resources on behalf of all our members as we move forward at the new American Airlines," TWU president James C. Little said in a statement. "Both unions have decades of experience representing workers at US Airways and American Airlines and both unions are members of the AFL-CIO."

The agreement comes weeks after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters signaled its intention to try to represent mechanics at the merged airline, a move that could potentially disrupt the airlines' hope for post-deal labor peace. The Teamsters have been working to represent mechanics at US Airways since October 2012, part of a broader ongoing turf war between unions seeking to increase their membership.

The two airlines in February announced plans to combine as part of AMR's emergence from bankruptcy in a deal that would create the world's largest carrier. US Airways worked hard in the months leading up to the announcement to win backing from AMR workers in hopes of ensuring post-deal labor peace.

The prospect of a union turf war is worrisome for the airlines because it could lead to the competing sides overpromising to try to win votes. That in turn could lead to more difficult negotiations with management as the winning union tries to make good on those promises.

Written by Lou Whiteman in New York

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