PSA fires wildcat Teamsters

 - September 19, 2006, 5:32 AM

PSA Airlines last month fired 13 employees in connection with an April 26 wildcat strike of some 70 ramp and gate workers that disrupted service for more than three hours. The Teamsters-represented workers staged the walkout in frustration over a 7-cent-per-hour wage-hike offer from management. The sides had been involved in negotiations for some four years.

Meanwhile, a judge in Pittsburgh denied PSA’s request for a permanent injunction against the Teamsters, in which the airline charged stewards from local chapter 926 with encouraging the walkout. The company had asked the court to bar further walkouts and order the union to discipline members who encourage the practice.

A federal mediator suspended talks after the walkout occurred. The Teamsters insists it did not sanction the action and has filed grievances on behalf of the fired individuals. The walkouts happened during the morning and evening shifts on April 26 and delayed 11 flights by about three-and-a-half hours.

A wholly owned subsidiary of US Airways, Vandalia, Ohio-based PSA employs some 400 fleet and passenger service agents in Pittsburgh. It operates roughly 130 flights a day in and out of the city.

Last year PSA’s ramp and gate workers won a major legal dispute after the airline posted a new bid sheet that did not account for employees’ seniority. The bid sheet disregarded contractual language that allows workers to select jobs according to schedule and location.

When an overwhelming majority of workers refused to sign the bid sheet, PSA threatened to unilaterally assign workers’ names to it. The Teamsters filed for a restraining order, which the court granted, requiring the company to hold a new job-bidding process according to the prior arrangement.

According to Local 926 secretary-treasurer Charlie Byrnes, the activity reflected the company’s antipathy toward labor. “A company supervisor ripped down the authorized union postings from a bulletin board we use to communicate with workers,” Byrnes said after last year’s court victory. “They have also refused union stewards their right to speak to fellow workers about any union-related business, unless the company has pre-approved the message.”