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Employees for American’s regional carrier rally for pay increases
Employees for Envoy, an American Airlines subsidiary, picketed for better pay Wednesday outside Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. (Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer)
By BRANDON FORMBY
About 40 employees for an American Airlines subsidiary and representatives from unions picketed for better pay Wednesday outside Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
The Envoy Air agents held the demonstration on the same day that negotiations began on what would be their first contract. Envoy is a subsidiary of American and a regional carrier that flies as American Eagle.
Its agents do everything from provide boarding passes to perform gate check-ins and load planes with passengers’ luggage. Yet, they say, they’re paid a fraction of what mainline American agents earn.
“What I’ve seen is a decline in wage and an increase in expectations,” said Shana Shaw, an Envoy agent based out of D/FW.
In November, 3,800 Envoy agents agreed to join the Communications Workers of America union, which also represents 14,000 passenger service agents at American Airlines. Envoy’s agents said Wednesday their maximum wage of $15 an hour — even after decades with the company — pales in comparison to the $29.27 their mainline counterparts can make.
American spokesman Casey Norton said the world’s largest carrier has a “very strong track record” of treating employees fairly.
“Negotiations have just started,” he said. “We look forward to sitting down at the bargaining table.”
Shaw was joined at Wednesday’s demonstration by agents from across the country. They said their starting hourly wage of $9.34 forces them to work well over 40 hours a week or to seek government assistance.
“There’s no way you can survive on that in today’s economy,” said Mary Wallace, an agent based in Houston.
De Anna Davis, an agent based in Beaumont, teared up as she told the crowd that she loves the airline industry and Envoy.
“But I know Envoy can step up to the plate and treat us better than they do,” she said.
American set a new industry record for profits last year as the Fort Worth-based airline earned $7.6 billion. A large component of that figure was due to a tax gain. But excluding that, the company still would have set a new record with $6.3 billion in earnings.
The company last week reported $700 million in profit for the first quarter of this year. That figure fell short of the $932 million American brought in during the same period in 2015, but still beat analysts’ estimates for the first part of this year. Falling oil prices helped the airline save $600 million, but operating revenue fell 4 percent to $9.4 billion.
American earlier this year instituted profit-sharing for more than 100,000 employees, including those at its wholly owned regional carriers, with the exception of some management positions. The move was a major shift after several years of forgoing the benefit in favor of higher base pay for its workers.
The Envoy workers were joined by mainline American employees, union leaders and State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, who said they support the effort for better pay.
“You are the face of American for millions of passengers,” Alonzo said.
But Envoy doesn’t exclusively work with American. The company also bids on some operations work for other airlines.
Envoy employees said they heard negotiations Wednesday went well, but they don’t want them to stall or drag on for several months.
“We were the last work group in American to get in a union and get a contract,” said Shannon Kitchen, also based out of Beaumont.
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