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September 01, 2014

Labor unions at American making progress towards uniting at merged carrier.

American US AirwaysCombining more than 100,000 employees into cohesive work groups after an airline merger usually takes several years.

But on Labor Day weekend, less than nine months since American Airlines and US Airways completed their merger, union groups at both airlines are on track to join their workforces with new contracts.

Flight attendants are in the final stages of negotiations for a joint contract that could be voted on by the end of the year. Passenger service agents are currently voting whether or not they want to be represented by the Communications Workers of America. Pilots, mechanics and ground workers have filed for single carrier status and are waiting for federal labor regulators to determine if representation elections will be held this fall.

“We are really enthusiastic about the progress that has been made and excited that we have the structure that will deliver joint collective bargaining agreements pretty quickly after the merger has closed,” said Steve Johnson, American’s executive vice president of corporate affairs.

While American’s management and labor leaders appear to be meeting timetables agreed to in late 2012 and early 2013, there are still several challenges that could derail contract talks. The pilots union could face legal challenges from US Airways pilots who do not want to join the Allied Pilots Association. Mechanics may also have a few choices on who they want to represent their work group.

And now that American has posted profits in the first two quarters of 2014, union leaders want to talk about adding profit-sharing programs back into their contracts.

Airline industry analyst Darryl Jenkins said nothing ever goes smoothly with airline labor unions, but American’s management and union leaders are navigating the complicated process of coming together to create the world’s largest carrier.

“This is a bigger job than anybody has had to merge before, but the good news for [American’s management team] is that we have a stable economy and the company has strong balance sheets,” Jenkins said.

Click here for the full article which appeared in Sunday's Star-Telegram.

-Andrea Ahles

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