|Richard Branson, the architect of Virgin Airways and often outspoken critic of a British and American Airlines alliance may have found some unexpected labor support across the pond.
Long time trade unionist and Missouri labor activist, Roger Graham who spearheaded a successful grassroots campaign to extend the recall rights of the laid off flight attendants at American Airlines after 9/11 is again pushing American Airlines to extend those recall rights indefinitely as the carrier seeks anti-trust immunity from US regulators for its proposed alliance with British Airways.
Graham, a candidate in upcoming union elections with the union representing the American Airlines flight attendants and his running mate Antoinette Delia have been speaking to legislators in recent weeks about the need for government oversight, worker assurances and the need to further extend the recall rights of laid off workers before any anti-trust agreement is reached that would cement a de facto merger. American Airlines last merger involving TWA resulted in nearly 20,000 workers losing their jobs as a result of lack government oversight and accountability. Since that time, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill drafted and had passed legislation protecting workers in airline mergers; however, the legislation does not extend to cross border virtual mergers.
In a letter to Ray LaHood, head of the Department of Transportation, Graham wrote, “We can ill-afford an alliance that will lead to outsourcing of American jobs while we have 1,180 flight attendants on furlough. If American Airlines is being truthful about additional flying they believe the anti-trust immunity would bring then they should not be unwilling to provide an additional extension to the recall rights of those workers currently laid off.”
Recently, Patricia Friend, President of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) lent the laid off attendants support when she weighed in with the Departments of Justice and Transportation on their behalf stating “that these laid off workers should be given additional time on the recall list, in exchange, for any immunity granted.”
AFA, while not the collective bargaining agent for the flight attendants of American Airlines is the world’s largest flight attendant union representing over 55,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines and serves as a voice for flight attendants in the industry, workplace and on Capitol Hill.