Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Twa Flight Attendants Have Joined a Secrecy-Shrouded Union

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Twa Flight Attendants Have Joined a Secrecy-Shrouded Union

Article excerpt

It lacked the drawn-out drama and colorful characters that made the recent Teamsters election a classic, but last week's balloting in Washington by Trans World Airlines' flight attendants to choose a representative was a good show in its own right.

Before the tabulation of votes even began Feb. 27, Maurice Parker of the National Mediation Board faced his first dilemma: Who merited a seat in the room to observe? And who would get to sit at the table to watch and scrutinize the count?

The International Association of Machinists - officials from Washington and Kansas City and flight attendant supporters from St. Louis and Southern Illinois and New York - were an obvious choice. So was the St. Louis-based Independent Federation of Flight Attendants, whose ranks included union staffers and attendants from as far away as London. Both unions were on the ballot mailed to TWA's 5,400 flight attendants. Parker gave each 20 chairs in the room, including a couple at the table. More problematic was the status of the Association of Flight Attendants, which had waged an unofficial write-in campaign, placing the nation's largest flight attendant union in the awkward position of being on the outside looking in. Two AFA attorneys vigorously bargained with Parker before they were granted three chairs in the room but none at the table. Participants speculated whether the turnout would involve more than half the attendants so the vote would count, and whether someone would garner a majority of votes to avert a run-off. The wind was whistling so loudly outside the top-floor room where the votes were tallied that it was tough to hear, making the flight attendants feel right at home. The sparring soon proved academic, as the IAM won resoundingly, collecting 63 percent of the ballots cast by 90 percent of the attendants. As a result, the Machinists now speak for more than 80 percent of TWA's organized work force and picked up another board seat. So what kind of union is it that will now enjoy such a dominant position as a key St. Louis-based company enters a period of uncertainty? Put simply, one marked by power and secrecy. …

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