More than 30 Envoy-American Eagle employees and Communications Workers of America (CWA) marched at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday, Nov. 1, in protest of American Airlines’ policies in a fight for higher pay and fair contracts. Some Envoy agents from Houston and San Angelo made the trip to Dallas to help the protest.
Starting pay for Envoy employees at American Airlines is $9.48 an hour, and more than half of the agents make less than $11 per hour. Many of the employees, who often work 60 hours per week, qualify for food stamps and other forms of public assistance. A recent nationwide survey of 900 Envoy agents showed 27 percent rely on public services, 60 percent rely on family and friends to get by, and many have gone to extreme measures to cover basic living expenses, such as selling plasma, buying out-of-date food and pulling money out from their retirement funds.
“American Airlines needs to hear the stories of how not having fair pay is impacting their lives,” Montserrat Garibay, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO, said. “Some of their employees are selling their blood for money, and some have two or three jobs. It’s devastating to hear what some of these employees have to go through. Some of them have to sell their belongings to get food on the table for their families. If American Airlines has so much money and revenue, the least they can do is treat their workers with justice and dignity.”
American Airlines relies heavily on their Envoy employees. Over 160 of the airports American serves (73 percent) are staffed fully or partially by employees of Envoy or Piedmont Airlines, also a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines. These employees are responsible for customer’s safety and security. With the amount of responsibility and work they put in each week, the Envoy employees believe their pay is not reflective of their duties.
“Our fight is for fair pay and fair contracts,” Takisha Gower, an 18-year employee Envoy Agent at DFW, said. “We know we’re not going to make as much as the main line, but we start at around nine dollars an hour, and that’s not fair. It’s not nearly enough to get by. We want the value of Envoy workers to be recognized. We are the bread and butter of this operation. We wear the same uniforms as main line American Airline workers. We go through the same training.”
Some of the signs the rally members were holding spoke volumes. One protester’s sign compared Envoy employee earnings to Target cashiers ($12 an hour) and Buc-ee’s gas station cashiers ($13 per hour).
“I’m 48, and it’s ridiculous what they’re paying us,” Greg Cosey, an AFL-CIO member, said. “You can go to In-and-Out and make more money flipping burgers. We are dealing with safety of the airlines and the passengers. Enough is enough. It’s time to make a stand.”
This is not the first time Envoy employees have rallied against American Airlines. In the past two months, both Chicago and Miami Envoy employees held rallies in hopes of pushing American Airlines to increase wages.
Envoy employees were the last American Airlines’ employees to become unionized, just three years ago. But before they were finally unionized, Envoy employees fought for their job security, better premiums for insurance, and their safety.
Since Envoy agents were unionized, they have worked without a contract. The Envoy employees also have yet to see a pay increase since they became unionized.
“Bills are getting higher,” Garibay said. “Rent is getting higher, and it’s unacceptable that [Envoy employees] are still begging to be treated with respect. What would make me and many other people happy is for American Airlines to talk to the union and negotiate a fair contract.”
The rally was only one of many attempts to gain higher wages. The Envoy employees at DFW International Airport have made phone calls to their senators about their issues, and they have also sent representatives to the main offices of American Airlines.
“As the Texas AFL-CIO, we are here to support them today, tomorrow, and the day after that,” Garibay said. “We know how greedy corporate can be. [American Airlines] isn’t willing to ask what their workers may need, or how can we make your jobs better. I think if they would be a little more conscious of what we’re living, I think they would sit down and finalize a fair contract.”
Written by Mike Flores