IAM Celebrates US Airways Win as Teamster Hopes Fade

CHARLOTTE ( TheStreet) - As US Airways ( LCC) mechanics left work at the airline's Charlotte hangar on Monday afternoon, they were greeted by about two dozen waving, cheering backers of the International Association of Machinists, who had staked out a strategic corner on the exit route.

Drivers honked their horns as the union celebrated a conclusive victory in a representation election for 4,376 mechanics and related workers, active and inactive, after Teamsters sought to raid the group, part of an effort to represent mechanics at what would be the world's largest airline following the pending merger of US Airways and American ( AAMRQ.PK).

Now that effort is shattered. The IAM won 58% to 42%, amassing 1,903 votes compared to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' 1,418. Meanwhile, the IBT's effort to have a representation election at American has been stymied by the allegation that some of the signatures on union representation cards were forged. The National Mediation Board is investigating.

Bill Wise, president of US Airways IAM Local 1725, was among the group gathered on the Charlotte corner. He attributed the IAM's victory primarily to economic issues.

"The IAM won because of what we have in the form of guarantees moving forward as far as seniority and retirement," Wise said. "We have a better chance of obtaining a better contract right now, without a long drawn out process, and we have a better pension plan. The Teamsters haven't demonstrated that they can come out with a better contract than what we have."

Wise noted that staying under the IAM contract would guarantee seniority, which could not be assured under a contract with a new union once the carrier begins a merger integration.

The IAM was in the late stages of contract negotiations when the Teamsters announced in May that they would seek an election. The negotiations were suspended.

On Monday afternoon, after the votes were counted, a notice was posted on union bulletin boards at maintenance stations. "It is time to resume negotiations," said Tom Higginbotham, District 142 general chairman, in the statement. "The wait-and-see excuse has now passed. I have contacted both Mediator Walter Darr and US Airways Vice President Labor Relations Al Hemenway insisting negotiations resume immediately."

In a prepared statement, Teamster spokesman Bret Caldwell said that: "Hundreds of mechanics and related at US Airways had the courage to launch a campaign and more than 1,400 voted for change.

"They reached out to the Teamsters because they are the lowest-paid mechanics and have the lowest standards in the industry and wanted a strong alternative to their failed representation," Caldwell said. "The Teamsters are proud to have worked with these men and women. We hope these workers are heard and that they get the attention and representation they deserve."

Meanwhile, Garry Drummond, air transport director at the Transport Workers Union, which represents mechanics and related workers at American, called the IAM win "a victory for the real trade unionist at US Airways (after) a wasteful campaign by the Teamsters.

"The IBT has been running a sleazy campaign against TWU members at American Airlines," Drummond said, noting that the TWU had brought the charges concerning forged cards to the NMB.

"If the National Mediation Board allows an election at American to go forward, we expect TWU members at American to reject the Teamsters, just as IAM members did at US Airways," he said.

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

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

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