Holding signs saying “what’s our worth,” dozens of Envoy Air customer service agents rallied for a new contract.
The rally, held at Terminal B at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on Wednesday afternoon, was held as the agents’ union and management at the regional carrier opened contract talks this week.
“We really believe in a fair wage for the work that we do,” Shana Shaw, an Envoy gate agent at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. “[We have] a huge responsibility. There’s a lot that goes into getting an aircraft in the air on-time to its destination and doing it in a safe manner.”
Envoy Air, which is wholly-owned by American Airlines Group, has about 3,800 agents working at 94 airports. The employees voted last fall to unionize and to be represented by the Communications Workers of America.
The agents say they are paid less than half of what employees who perform similar work at the mainline American Airlines operations are paid. Some agents qualify for food stamps because their wages are so low. The starting pay for Envoy agents is $9.34 an hour.
“You’re lucky if you get a paycheck for $1,100 a month to try to survive on. That’s a full-time agent and the majority of the agents are part-time agents to start off,” said Mary Wallace, an Envoy agent at Houston Hobby airport.
Since the regional carrier often operates at smaller airports, agents also work on the ramp and guide planes to gates and load baggage.
Envoy, formerly called American Eagle, is one of 10 regional carriers that American has contracted with to operate flights under the American Eagle brand and livery. American, as a result of its merger with US Airways, also owns two other regional airlines, Piedmont and PSA.
American Airlines Group said negotiations with the customer service agents have just begun.
“We respect the rights of all employees to demonstrate and express their opinions,” the company said in a statement. “We have a track record of treating our employees fairly and will conduct our negotiations at the bargaining table.”
Gate agents and customer service representatives at the mainline American Airlines operations approved a new five-year contract last fall that included pay increases that averaged 30 percent. Those 14,500 workers are also represented by the CWA.