AMR Local TWU Leaders Urge Vote Against Contract Offer

American Airlines’ mechanics, baggage handlers and other airport ground workers should reject the bankrupt carrier’s final contract offer, local presidents of the Transport Workers Union told members.

The action goes against the stance of the labor group’s national leaders, who are not recommending members vote for or against the plan. The offer by AMR Corp.’s American would cut 5,900 TWU jobs, freeze workers’ pension plan and close a maintenance base in Fort Worth, Texas.

“For those of you who are considering voting yes, I ask you to think about your career, your livelihood and if you might get laid off, what you’re going to come back to,” Gary Peterson, TWU Local 565 president, said on a video to members yesterday. “We need to stand up, we need to stand together and fight our way through this.”

Voting on American’s final contract offer is part of TWU’s strategy to keep all avenues open as the carrier seeks to cut labor costs by $1.25 billion a year as it restructures in bankruptcy. The union has also reached worker accords with US Airways Group Inc. on a possible takeover bid for the carrier and is opposing an effort by American to void existing contracts in court next week.

Jim Little, TWU’s international president, told members on a conference call yesterday not to let anyone pressure them to vote yes or no. He urged workers to become fully informed on all options before casting a vote.

‘Magic Information’

“You need to focus and make a decision that’s going to be best for you and your family,” Little said. “I wish I had some magic information for you -- to tell you if you just do this, things will be better -- because it’s not getting any better in the future.”

TWU members are set to vote on American’s final offer May 10 through May 14. The union’s attorneys will ask American’s bankruptcy judge to extend the “very short window” for balloting, Little said.

If approved, the plan would become part of TWU’s contract with the carrier after it leaves court protection. The union is the largest at American, representing seven work groups.

The TWU will join unions for American’s pilots and flight attendants in arguing against the airline’s request to reject existing contracts and impose new terms starting May 14. The judge has said he will rule by June 6.

If the TWU votes against American’s last offer and the judge lets the airline void contracts, the unions would begin negotiating terms for entirely new labor agreements.

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