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Could Forgery Charge at American Hurt Teamsters' US Airways Raid?

CHARLOTTE ( TheStreet) -- As the Teamsters union tries to simultaneously raid mechanics at two airlines, charges of forgery have tainted its effort at American (AAMRQ.PK) and could influence an ongoing election at US Airways (LCC).

Late Wednesday, the International Association of Machinists released a letter it had written to the National Mediation Board, which asks the board to investigate whether the International Brotherhood of Teamsters submitted forged US Airways cards as well as forged American Airlines cards.

In the American effort, the Transport Workers Union, which currently represents the roughly 11,000 American mechanics and related workers, has charged that the IBT forgedsome of the signatures it submitted in support of an election. For the NMB to authorize a union election, a union must submit signed cards from 50% plus one of the bargaining unit members.

The Teamsters submitted American cards to the NMB on May 28, but two months later no election has been scheduled. On Tuesday, the union asked the NMB to give it until Aug. 23 to respond to the TWU charges.

At US Airways, Teamsters submitted cards on May 7 and an election was scheduled a month later. About 4,500 mechanics and related workers began voting July 8. Results will be tabulated Aug. 12.

In the letter, the IAM's attorney encouraged the board to closely investigate any authorization cards submitted on behalf of 425 furloughed US Airways mechanics and related employees. "In its own campaign efforts, the IAM has been unable to contact many furloughees at their last known address," the letter said. "Submission of cards purportedly from these furloughees would be suspect."

The IAM said "It bears emphasis that the Teamsters have not denied any of the factual allegations made by the TWU declarants." The TWU had submitted affidavits from two paid Teamster organizers attesting to the forged signatures. A Teamster spokesman could not be immediately reached late Wednesday to comment on the letter.

Earlier, Larry Ocheltree, a US Airways mechanic and a supporter of the Teamster's organizing effort, said "We were hoping to hear that the NMB had certified the AA election before our vote was over, but it makes no difference. I believe 90% of (those) who were going to vote have already voted."

Regarding the forgery allegations, Ocheltree said "the NMB is checking on this as it does with any allegations, but at this time the allegations have not been found to be credible." In an e-mail, David Bourne, director of the Teamsters Airline Division, called the charges of forgery "desperation tactics by two unions that failed to provide the strong representation these workers want and deserve."

Bill Wise, president of IAM Local 1725 in Charlotte, said the relative timing of two elections gives the Teamsters no choice but to delay. "They have delay and to keep delaying because they don't want the answer coming out before we're done voting," he said.

Wise said he has doubted the IBT has enough cards to force an election at American ever since the union declined to say how many signatures it had when it announced that it had filed. "Their silence said it all," Wise said. "They don't have enough signatures."

Teamsters are really after the larger bargaining unit at American and "they are trying to use us to get it," Wise said. "They don't care about our retirement or our seniority, or our contract. What they want is American."

Of course, both sides predict victory. Wise said members are being swayed by the IAM's superior pension plan and by the realization that joining a new union would further delay contract talks.

Ocheltree said: "Our guys want the change from the company union to an employee union. The IAM is trying to do what they do best -- scare, threaten, lie and intimidate the members into voting for them. If they spent as much time representing us as they do trying to retain us we would not be having this election."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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