I reported last Monday that some LGBT organizations were joining together to castigate American Airlines for flouting federal directions to allow customer service agents to vote on whether or not the workers would join a union. The letter sent to American has now been released.
The workers want to join a union, but the company has done everything possible to prevent the employees from having a chance to vote on whether or not to even join a union. American has defied court orders and rulings by the Department of Justice and Federal Mediation Board; now they've appealed it to the Supreme Court. They've spent millions of dollars to do all of this while filing for bankruptcy - and laying off the workers who said they wanted to join a union.
The vast majority of these workers are in states without any LGBT protections. Without ENDA in place, for these workers a union contract is the only legal protections they can actually have. LGBT groups are starting to band together and demand that American give their LGBT employees the chance to gain domestic partner benefits and nondiscrimination protections.
Pride At Work, the LGBT organization that works with labor unions, is spearheading the initiative. They've launched an action alert that asks community members to e-mail American to demand they allow the workers to vote and are launching an informational campaign aimed at the LGBT community.
American is a large donor to many LGBT organizations and have a solidly pro-LGBT record. The company gave as much as $225,000 between 2005-2010 to PFLAG and as much as $100,000 to the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force over the past two years. The Task Force was one of the signatories to the open letter.
The company is listed as "Platinum Partner" on the Human Rights Campaign website and the organization sent an e-mail to supporters last week urging them to purchase airline tickets from the company. HRC did not join the other organizations in chastising American.
(Full disclosure: I'm working with Pride At Work with blogger outreach and to place advertisements about American's shenanigans on LGBT media websites.)
Open Letter to American Airlines from LGBT Organizations
Pride At Work
National Stonewall Democrats
National Lesbian & Gay Task Force Action Fund
Dear American Airlines,
It has come to our attention that American Airlines management has been, and continues to be, engaged in an aggressive effort to prevent approximately 10,000 of your employees from holding a legal election to determine whether or not they will join a union. We are writing to express our concerns about those efforts and to encourage you to stop engaging in these frivolous actions. These workers deserve the chance to exercise their legal workplace democratic rights and you should let that election proceed as currently planned without interruption.
We appreciate the supportive position that American Airlines has taken over the years in supporting full LGBT equality for all citizens of the United States. Your willingness to support LGBT inclusive contracts with your many already unionized employees and generous financial support of many national organizations fighting for LGBT equality is something for which we are sincerely grateful. However, we understand the differences between attempts at marketing to our community and being fully supportive of all workers' rights to achieve full equality in our society. We encourage you to stand behind the principles you've supported in the past by halting your efforts at delaying a union election for your passenger service agents.
We recognize that for many LGBT workers in this country, the only protections they have against workplace discrimination is through a legally enforceable collective bargaining agreement. Also, for many the only legal recognition they have for their families (health care benefits, FMLA leave, survivor benefits, etc.) is through a union contract. We understand that many of the company's passenger service agents that are LGBT live in states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona which have little to no legal protections in their laws to protect against workplace discrimination or for family recognition. Those are some of the reasons that your LGBT passenger service agents want to have this opportunity to try and achieve union recognition - to work to enshrine those protections which American Airlines maintains are important into a legally binding collective bargaining agreement.
As you know, the airline industry has been for decades an industry that has attracted many LGBT workers. They have seen your airline and others through difficult times and we know you understand that they are privileged to have developed lifelong careers and become dedicated professionals in this industry. Many of them have spent their entire lives in this industry as out and proud airline employees. It's an industry and career that they love and are able to express themselves every day.
The bankruptcy process you are going through has been difficult for many and they are looking for the chance to have a voice in what that future looks like for them and their many coworkers. And a chance to try and ensure though that voice that many young LGBT workers can make this a lifelong career and profession as well. A legally recognized voice in determining that future which only having a union will give them.
We have enjoyed the support of American Airlines in the fight to achieve equality for all LGBT Americans and their families. We urge you to act on those principles of equality for all, by stopping these needless and frivolous delays. Allow your valued passenger service agents to have their legal election which has recently been ordered for December 4th - January 15th, 2013.
Further delay for them is unacceptable.