More than half of America West’s customer service representatives voted to unionize Tuesday and joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, officials said.
The vote allows the Teamsters to negotiate on behalf of more than 3,000 ticket and reservation agents and baggage clerks employed by the airline nationwide.
"We won the election, but now our task at hand is to assist these folks in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement," said Joe Rhein, Teamsters Local 104 president.
Of the 3,095 America West workers eligible to cast ballots, 1,679 voted for unionization by the Teamsters according to a tally by the National Mediation Board, said Galen Monroe, Teamsters spokesman.
"This is better than sliced bread," said Deb Ewing, an America West gate agent, who was among workers and union leaders to make the announcement at Sky Harbor International Airport.
Ewing and other workers said job security, standard work-related rules and higher pay were among the issues that spurred on the vote.
"We’re not out to be vindictive, but we know that it can be done better," said Dan Vogelgesang, a reservations agent.
America West spokeswoman Janice Monahan said that while the company is "disappointed by the outcome of the vote, we respect the decision made by the majority of our customer service employees."
The Teamsters already represent America West mechanics and stock clerks while other unions represent pilots, flight attendants and ramp and dispatch workers.
This is the second time a formal union vote has taken place. In 2002, nearly 57 percent of the firm’s reservation, ticket, gate and baggage service agents voted against unionizing. In 2001, there were not enough authorization cards submitted by workers to authorize a formal vote on unionization.