Piedmont Mobilization Is Taking Off

By Heather Hudson, CLT

At our Town Hall call on August 16, CWA President Chris Shelton said that the union is redoubling its efforts right now to pressure the company to give workers what they deserve. The contract language changes are done, and the team is now working on securing fair wages.

United We Bargain. Divided We Beg: Town Hall Call Recap

Our mobilization has been heating up as never before this summer. Facebook is full of “solidarity selfies” of members wearing pins and holding up their “I’m All In” cards. We’ve been focusing all stations on pressing American Airlines relentlessly for fair wages for all Piedmont employees, and we’re getting great participation! To talk about how we’re moving forward, we held a Town Hall meeting by phone on August 16. At the meeting, we heard from CWA President Chris Shelton and members of our bargaining team. I was really happy to be able to report on the event I attended with other workers who are trying to survive on poverty wages. The meeting was sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders to highlight big corporations that make billions in profits without giving any of that money back to the workers who actually create those profits.

On our Piedmont Town Hall Call, we also took a lot of great questions from agents across the country by phone and email. Coming out of the Town Hall, our call to action was to send an email to Eric Morgan, American Airlines Senior VP of Ground Handling, to tell him Piedmont must give us our retro pay as part of a new contract. It’s not too late to send your message to Eric Morgan today.

On our call, President Shelton let everyone know in no uncertain terms that CWA is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Piedmont workers. Above all, he said, it’s time to get everyone involved in mobilization so we can win at the bargaining table. “No company is going to do what we need them to do in a contract unless they are completely convinced that all their employees are engaged. So we need every single member at Piedmont to make sure they are out there doing mobilization.”

When it was my turn to speak, I told everyone on the call about my experience this summer at the  major event with Bernie Sanders. It was pretty scary to talk about my life in front of all those people, but I’m so happy I did. My coworkers appreciate what I’m doing. My children tell me they’re proud of me. And my son says I inspired him to speak up for himself at work too, which means so much to me.

I want everyone to know that telling your truth can help. Like a lot of other agents, I make less than $14 an hour after 11 years on the job with Piedmont. Despite working extra hours on 12-hour shifts, I still qualify for food stamps and Medicaid. I want to encourage all agents to fill out the surveys that CWA is distributing starting this month. It’s a way of gathering more information to strengthen our position in bargaining.

It’s time to stand together. We have to fight for what we deserve. The company believes we are fine with our wages the way they are, so we need to let Eric Morgan know we are not! It’s time to get organized and take action. I’m all in, are you?

The next person on our Town Hall call was Tamika Norman from Philadelphia, PA. Tamika talked about how we need to focus on informing, educating, and empowering each other. “We’re the ones who do the work, and that gives us power. But we can only use that power if we stand together,” she said.

Tamika and her coworkers at PHL are wearing pins and filling out “I’m All In” cards because that’s the first step in getting a feeling of solidarity and support going at all the stations. “Management is starting to learn that we’re going to show up,” she said. In both Philadelphia and Charlotte, agents will be marching in Labor Day parades and letting their cities know about poverty wages at American Airlines.

After we heard from Tamika, members of the bargaining team talked about the progress they’ve made with the mediator and the company so far at sessions in July and August, and the major issues around compensation that are still being negotiated. Marge Krueger, co-chair of our bargaining team, said that all the language changes in the proposed contract are done and that the focus of the upcoming session on September 11-13 will be wages, wages, wages.

Bargaining team member Bruce Diep from Santa Ana, CA, discussed victories for the union in terms of time for training during work hours, more vacation for those with 10 years of service, and more flexibility for part-time employees. The details are in our July and August bargaining updates. And Donielle Prophete from my home base of Charlotte, NC, said that there is a dispute right now over the company’s commitment to retroactive pay to January 1, 2018. Eric Morgan, VP of Customer Services, said last year that pay would be retroactive, but the company is now waffling on that statement. The whole bargaining team is calling on every member to email Morgan and remind him that American Airlines must live up to this commitment.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make difference, here’s one easy thing: Please take a moment to send a short email telling Piedmont to give us our retro pay by clicking here. Then take the next important step and tell five coworkers to do the same thing. To win, we need to flood management with clear statements, explaining that pay retroactive to January 1 is a non-negotiable part of any contract! And we’ve got to keep mobilizing!