By noon Wednesday, at least 100 American Airlines employees descended onto the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport—one of many demonstrations held by labor unions nationwide—to protest anticipated job cuts and pension changes.
Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle, filed for bankruptcy protection last year. It was the second protest by labor unions at the DFW Airport since American Airlines announced in early February its business plan, which included shuttering its Fort Worth Alliance Airport maintenance facility, reducing approximately 13,000 employee positions and altering employee pensions as a move to emerge from bankruptcy.
Brian Parker is a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union of America Local 513, which organized the local event.
“This one is system-wide; it is going on in Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles,” he said. “We have all work groups here: flight attendants, pilots, ground workers, mechanics as well as other labor groups. We are getting a lot of support.”
Protesters circled the departure gate of Terminal D of American Airlines and American Eagle, holding up signs that read “STANDING FIRM FOR OUR FUTURE” and chanting in unison “Workers rights are human rights.”
Arlington resident Grace Elliott, a retired first grade teacher, and her husband, Larry, a retired postal service worker, marched with the protesters. The couple does not have friends or family who are American Airlines employees, but they wanted to come out for support.
“I am here in solidarity,” she said. “I am a union member and I believe in union rights. And I hate what is going on.”
Waiting at the Terminal D curbside check-in, Hickory Creek resident Tina Carlisle watched as protesters chanted. She stood next to her 86-year-old father, who was waiting for a wheelchair and a departing flight to Pittsburgh, Penn. Carlisle previously worked as an American Eagle flight attendant for five years until the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She said employees have every right to protest.
“I’ve got several friends that work for the airlines,” she said. “All this is affecting their retirements, it is going to affect their wages. I don’t know that most people know the employees took a huge pay cut after 9/11 and they’ve been working without a contract for years.”
Deborah Dulaney, who was waiting to catch a flight home to Tucson, Ariz., had a different perspective. She watched as protesters chanted “Stop corporate greed.”
“They are not saying much,” she said. “They are yelling so loud I can hardly understand them sometimes, but they are not explaining what they are all about. And personally, if they want to get rid of corporate greed, maybe they should call their congressman.”
AMR spokesman Tim Smith said in an email response that the company is in negotiations with its labor unions to help American Airlines reduce costs and become competitive in the airline industry.
“These are challenging times for everyone at American Airlines and we know change is difficult,” he said. “It’s important to remember every employee group—labor, independent, support staff and management—is affected. These were not easy decisions to make, but they were made out of necessity. Our goal is to preserve as many jobs as possible and emerge from restructuring a successful, profitable company.”
Meanwhile, Fort Worth-based Allied Pilots Association, which represents 10,000 American Airlines pilots, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York asking to clarify “a legal gray area regarding rejection of airline industry collective bargaining agreements in bankruptcy,” according to a news release.