The new president of the Transport Workers Union, which represents thousands of mechanics, fleet service clerks and ground workers at American Airlines, wants local chapters to have more control over the union’s decisions.Harry Lombardo, a former Philadelphia transit worker, said he plans to listen to local leaders in the transit, rail and air divisions to find out what members need. He made his comments as the union holds its quadrennial convention in Las Vegas this week.Lombardo replaces Jim Little, who was president of TWU International since 2006 and did not run for re-election. Little started his career as a fleet service clerk for American Airlines. In North Texas, the union also represents flight attendants at Southwest Airlines.Lombardo, who has served as the union’s executive vice president and led a transit strike in Philadelphia while president of union Local 234, took a few minutes during the convention Wednesday to talk with the Star-Telegram about issues facing the union. Now that you’ve been elected president of TWU International, what position do you believe the union should take on the American Airlines-US Airways merger as the two carriers fight an antitrust suit filed by the government to stop the deal?That’s a serious question. I think the most responsible answer I can give you, I really can’t discuss details about the merger. I’ve only been elected yesterday. Additionally, I haven’t met a US Airways executive or Doug Parker, and I think it would be much more appropriate for me to have those meetings with our presidents and some initial contact with the airline executives before publicly making any declarations. There has been criticism from the local members that the union did not fight hard enough to keep maintenance jobs in the U.S., particularly here in Fort Worth, where American closed its Alliance maintenance base last year. How do you respond to that?I can’t respond to what happened or did not happen. I can respond to the criticism and that’s why as part of our campaign we pledged that we would indeed restore authority for representing members to our locals as opposed to International employees and representatives imposing the will of the International on the locals. With regard to fighting outsourcing, that is indeed not a problem that is exclusive to the TWU and our mechanics at any of our overhaul bases. That’s a problem that the entire airline industry faces. The Transport Workers have faced representation challenges from other national unions that want to represent your members. How do you plan to keep your members from choosing another union? I would say that there may have been times when the TWU hasn’t met their needs but overall the TWU is one of the best organizations in the country in terms of representing our members in terms of our history of struggle and success. I believe that once we are able to develop better communication systems and methods and truly open up a more democratic process during our formal meetings, I believe that a lot of those members will find that in spite of being frustrated, that there is no need to leave the TWU.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk