The Transit Workers Union wants a better contract and it doesn’t want Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. injected into it.
“I don’t know how long this is gonna take,” said Paul Mozeak, an instructor crew chief with more than 30 years of experience with American Airlines, to the AmNews Tuesday. Mozeak and other ground workers and baggage handlers affiliated with TWU Local 501 have been, for more than a year, going back and forth with American Airlines, negotiating a new contract. But in the meantime, they’ve dealt with a situation that TWU workers feel isn’t fair.
“They have never been afforded Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday,” said TWU Local 501 Executive Vice President Angelo Cucuzza.
In 2012, American Airlines merged with US Airways. Workers for the latter in New York had MLK Day as a day off in their contract. The workers for the former didn’t.
“Post-merger, the folks that do the exact same work we do were given the holidays,” said Cucuzza. “Two unions on the property and one had holidays recognized with additional compensation and the ability to take the day off. You had a situation on Jan. 15 that people were doing the exact same job for the same company. Some were compensated and some were not.”
According to a representative from American Airlines, the other workers—affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers—were under a different contract, and American Airlines also offered TWU employees a deal back in July that TWU has yet to respond to.
“We recognize there’s a discrepancy between TWU members and IAM members in regard to paid holidays and frankly it isn’t right,” said the representative. “We’re proud of the diversity and inclusion initiative we already have at American, but we know we need to get better and we’re working toward that.”
The representative concluded, “We gave them a comprehensive proposal back in July and the union hasn’t responded.”
The contract would affect all TWU and IAM workers, putting them under the same umbrella. As part of the contract, all workers would get MLK Day as a paid holiday.
“You need to do the right thing and not use this day as a bargaining chip,” said Cucuzza of the American Airlines officials. “You see them projecting this image of equality and there’s inequality within your own ranks.”
Mozeak noted that when King was killed, he was in Memphis helping sanitation workers who were on the picket lines pushing for a new contract. He told the AmNews that for a certain group of workers with American Airlines from 2001 to now, they’ve given up a lot without getting much in return. “Memorial Day and President’s Day were taken away from us,” said Mozeak. “We’ve given the company opportunities to come to the table. They should be at the table every day. You’re talking about people’s livelihoods. We don’t feel like they’re pushing hard enough to get it done.”
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to call out the company and say of all of the holidays, this one we should not have to barter,” said Cucuzza.