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July 12, 2013

The scene outside the US Airways shareholder meeting

NEW YORK - Outside the meeting, several dozen workers from airport subcontractors for US Airways and American Airlines protested low wages, carrying signs that read "Poverty doesn't fly."

They are trying to organize unions and join the Service Employees International.

Inside, four workers who provide wheelchair service and security at airports in Philadelphia, New York, Fort Lauderdale and Boston spoke at the meeting, telling US Airways chief executive Doug Parker that they make $7 to $8.50 an hour and have gone without raises for years. They spoke of trying to raise families on poverty-level paychecks and having to work two jobs to make ends meet.

Parker said he was proud to have the support of union employees at US Airways and American for the merger and that there was little he could do directly for the workers since they don't work for US Airways.

"We fully support your right to organize and we wish you luck in that endeavor," he said.

Also at the meeting, held at the law offices of Latham & Watkins in New York, Parker addressed concerns that the Justice Department review may be delayed as concerns have been raised about the combined carrier's presence at Reagan National Airport. He said that Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and JetBlue were lobbying the hardest on the issue.

BO-bc4hCUAAlHXzParker said there is no legal basis to force American and US Airways to divest slots at Reagan, saying that the carriers combined share of flights would still be less than United, Delta and Southwest maintain at other airports.

Divesting slots would result on lost service from Washington to several smaller cities, Parker said, calling that "really bad policy."

Parker, who will become CEO of the combined airline, said that while the corporate culture among top executives was different at American and US Airways, the culture among most employees is very similar. Both want to operate a great airline and serve customers, he said.

Integration meetings with employees from both airlines have been going well, Parker said, and it's sometimes hard to tell which airline employees are from.

He declined to say how many management jobs may be lost in the integration or how many headquarters employees would be moving to Dallas-Fort Worth, but said more officers would be named in the next couple of weeks.

-Steve Kaskovich


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