Former TWA Workers Picket Own Union

The Associated Press
Friday, September 8, 2006; 7:31 PM

EULESS, Texas -- Former TWA flight attendants picketed their own union Friday, protesting what they say is the labor group's unwillingness to help them get back their jobs, which were lost after the 2001 terror attacks.

Beginning next month, the first of about 2,900 former TWA flight attendants will lose their chance to be rehired at American Airlines. American Airlines' parent company, AMR Corp. of Forth Worth, bought Trans World Airlines when it was in bankruptcy months before 9/11 and absorbed TWA's staff.

The rehiring rights of the former TWA attendants expire five years after they were laid off, and it's been nearly that long since the first post-Sept. 11 layoffs.

The ex-TWA workers want to stay in the rehiring line, hoping that better conditions in the airline business could result in their rehiring. Getting their old jobs back could mean qualifying again for health insurance and a pension.

About 30 former TWA flight attendants protested outside the headquarters of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, or APFA, which represents about 18,000 workers at American Airlines. The demonstrators carried placards reading, "A real union protects all of its members."

Inside, a representative of the picketers met with the union's president, Tommie Hutto-Blake. Later, they were to meet with American Airlines officials.

The picketing highlighted the tension that has existed between the two groups since AMR Corp. absorbed TWA.

The TWA attendants had been represented by the International Association of Machinists, but when they became AMR employees, their new union put them at the bottom of American's seniority list. That made the TWA veterans _ some with decades of experience _ vulnerable to layoffs.

"We had no other union standing up for us," said former TWA attendant Jeanne Gibbons. "And if APFA can put you on the bottom, they do."

A class-action lawsuit over stripping seniority from the TWA employees is pending in federal court in New York.

Friday's picketers said they were focused now on preserving their right to a job if American calls back laid-off flight attendants.

They could be waiting in vain, however.

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