The battle heats up over which union will represent American Airline workers in Tulsa

Thursday, January 15th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A bitter takeover battle continues between the Transport Workers Union and a rival labor group.

The American Mechanics Fraternal Association or "AMFA" is attempting to takeover the representation of the American Airlines base in Tulsa. The two sides were scheduled to square off in a debate at the Renaissance Hotel Thursday; only one side got their point across.

News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg explains why.

It was one-sided, because AMFA wasn't there. Instead, AMFA is holding its own debate on Saturday, but the Transport Workers say "they" won't be attending "AMFA's" debate. TWU's Rick Mullings says that as the incumbent union, they have the right to set the format. "We are the representatives here, AMFA is in our backyard. So we set up a forum for debate and set up rules for that debate, and they simply chose not to show up."

The handful of AMFA supporters who did attend got an angry earful from Transport Workers about massive layoffs at AMFA-represented bases. The battle has been brewing since last year, when American narrowly avoided bankruptcy and union members had to take huge pay cuts.

Some like Mike Anderson are still upset by the concessions and say the small AMFA showing here doesn't tell the whole story. "TWU is saying we don't have much support, the numbers aren't true. I work on a dock, which on my shift, we are 100% signed."

AMFA has to get more than 50% of the Transport Workers to sign requests to force an election. And only AMFA knows for sure how many signatures they have. What is clear is the two sides don't like each other.

Scott Parker works for Horizon Air in Seattle, where TWU was taken over by AMFA about a year ago and took two vacation days to come here and oppose AMFA. "They immediately doubled our dues, over-doubled our dues, with no representation, that’s been my experience, and I'm just here to tell the cautionary tale to these lads."

The two sides don't have much common ground or even a common hotel. It's not clear when AMFA plans to turn in its signatures.