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American Airlines

Former TWA flight attendants picket union headquarters  Apr 29, 2009

Dozens of American Airlines flight attendants demonstrated Tuesday, but their anger wasn’t directed at airline management or executive bonuses.

About 100 attendants, all former employees of Trans World Airlines, marched outside the Euless headquarters of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union that has represented them since American purchased TWA in 2001. They said they were worried about being laid off from American and feel particularly vulnerable because of a 2002 deal that put them on the bottom of the union’s seniority list.

"American gave us everything they promised when they bought TWA," said attendant Carol Samuelson, who traveled to the demonstration from O’Fallon, Mo. "It’s the union that did this to us."

A union spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Because of their low seniority, the former TWA attendants are the first to be laid off when American sheds jobs. Many who are facing furloughs were recalled to work just last year.

American has been downsizing in recent months as it shrinks its schedule. The airline industry is grappling with a sharp drop in demand for travel amid the economic downturn.

TWA had about 4,100 attendants when it was acquired by American. About 252 from that group remain in American’s work force today, attendants said.

Several attendants cited the recent merger of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, in which attendants from both airlines received seniority based on the date they were hired.

"That’s the fair way to do it," Samuelson said. "Instead we were just stapled to the bottom of the list."

Attendants came from across the nation to attend the demonstration, and one came from London. Many traveled from the St. Louis area, where TWA was headquartered. They carried signs denouncing the seniority agreement and the union’s leadership.

Just behind the demonstration, workers spread manure on the lawn in front of the union’s headquarters. Demonstrators accused union officials of deliberately scheduling the work for the day of the protest.

"They think they can stink us out of here," attendant Lawrence Holt said. "It’s outrageous."

Cherie Randall of St. Louis, who has been on furlough since 2003, said she isn’t ready to give up hope of returning to the airline.

"This gets in your system," she said. "I’m not the type who is going to be happy working in an office."

Former TWA flight attendants picket union headquarters
Image via S-T/Max Faulkner

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