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American Eagle Employees Protest

September 14, 1999

DALLAS (AP) _ For the second time this year, American Airlines’ parent company is dealing with employees who are unhappy about the company’s acquisition of a small airline.

In February, American’s pilots conducted a costly sickout. This week, flight attendants at American Eagle carried picket signs and handed out leaflets protesting AMR Corp.’s plans to merge Eagle with newly acquired Business Express.

The flight attendants say they need a pay raise to be on par with their new Business Express colleagues.

Several dozen American Eagle flight attendants carried picket signs and handed leaflets to the airline’s passengers Monday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The workers, members of the AFL-CIO’s Association of Flight Attendants, want the airline’s parent company, AMR Corp., to raise their pay in line with wages at Dover, N.H.-based Business Express, which are about $3 an hour higher for the same seniority.

``It’s just not fair to have people with the same seniority working side by side with people who are paid more,″ said union spokeswoman Cynthia Kain. ``It would obviously create tension in the cabins.″

AMR announced in December it was buying Business Express to expand service in the Northeast.

Employees said about 1,100 American Eagle flight attendants and 200 from Business Express are members of the same union. Sharon Abeling, vice president of the Business Express attendants’ Local, said that airlines attendants support the American Eagle attendants and held their own protest Sunday at Logan Airport in Boston.

Ms. Abeling said Business Express attendants are worried that AMR is reducing their work by changing Business Express flights in Washington and other cities to American Eagle.

American Eagle’s vice president of in-flight services, Patricia Hollinrake, told union members last month negotiations were ending because the union would not extend its current contract, due to expire in 2002. The company had offered pay increases, particularly for less experienced attendants, but not on par with Business Express wages, according to the union.

Tim Kincaid, an American Eagle spokesman, said the airline has made several offers to the union but received no response. He said the union wants to renegotiate a contract ratified last year.

``Many features of the American Eagle contract are better than the Business Express contract,″ Kincaid said. ``Do they want to cherry-pick the best of both contracts? This was a great contract last year, but now they want to reopen it.″

The flight attendants’ dispute marks the second time this year that AMR, based in Fort Worth, has encountered employees displeased with the company’s acquisition of a small airline.

In February, about one-fourth of American Airlines’ pilots called in sick to protest AMR’s December acquisition of Reno Air, whose pilots were paid about half the scale as American pilots.

The sickout proved costly for both the airline and the union. American said it lost $225 million due to canceled flights, and a federal judge fined the union $45.5 million for disobeying a back-to-work order.

The flight attendants say they won’t strike but are planning future protests in Chicago and Miami, two major centers for American Eagle.