On the Picket Line

Chicago airline workers picket for new improved contract

By Dan Fein
September 4, 2023

CHICAGO — Some 50 members of Communications Workers of America Local 4201 — customer service workers for American Airlines — held a lively informational picket line at O’Hare Airport here Aug. 15. Similar actions took place in St. Louis; Charlotte, North Carolina; and other American bases.

Negotiations are occurring in Dallas-Fort Worth covering 20,000 union members nationally. The CWA-Teamsters also represent American’s customer service workers on the West Coast.

The unionists include reservation agents, gate and ticket counter agents and customer assistance workers. “Our union contract expired on Dec. 15, 2020,” Qushaun Naugle, president of Local 4201 with nine years seniority, told this Militant  worker-correspondent. “Negotiations had been delayed for two years because of COVID.”

In additions to wages — workers haven’t received a pay raise in four years — the customer service workers are demanding job security and safer working conditions.

Several American Airlines flight attendants joined the picket line. American’s pilots have voted for strike authorization and the flight attendants are in the middle of voting on this as well. All three unions come under the anti-labor Railway Labor Act, which entangles negotiations with piles of red tape and no-strike rules.

“I’m on lunch,” Samrina Yousaf said. “Rent goes up, food goes up, gas goes up, why not wages? We need more than the minimum wage to pay the bills.”

Pickets chanted, “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!”

Local Vice President Jennifer Morales said, “The issue we are fighting for include wages, job security, and health benefits. We have been negotiating since October 2022.”

Susan Lund, with 37 years seniority, said, “We need the same health care insurance as the flight attendants.”