Union Pride Surges Among Envoy Agents Across the South
Since the ratification of the first collective bargaining agreement with Envoy Air back in August 2019, there has been a powerful wave of enthusiasm growing among passenger service agents across the South. Dozens of agents have volunteered to train as stewards in order to help their fellow agents resolve problems and improve their workplaces.
Our union represents more than 1,700 Envoy agents at 23 stations in CWA’s District 3, which is comprised of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico. The largest group is at Miami International Airport, with 785 CWA agents right now and an additional 300 joining soon in ground security, equipment, and bag runner positions. Across the district, 48 new stewards have already been trained, and many more are eager to be trained as soon as possible.
“The surge of excitement about the union is happening because everyone can see that we’ve got their backs,” says James McKnight, an Envoy agent at MIA. “For example, by following the procedures set out in our contract, we were able to bring back seven workers who had been fired in Miami.”
In Charleston, the union won two important grievance victories, and our union has seen almost a 40 percent increase in union membership. Instead of the old system, in which the company could make arbitrary decisions, there are now clear rules to follow at every station.
The best surprise for many Envoy workers in the past six months has been a new attitude from some of the managers. Many managers show more respect for the issues stewards bring to them, and management now understands the need for documented facts instead of rumors and hearsay.
“Of course, there are still managers who don’t quite get it,” says James McKnight, “But the fact that they are now legally accountable to the terms of the contract has been a wake-up call.” James explained that communication and transparency are essential.[caption caption="Jeida Gonzales, MIA" align="left"]
“We’re planning some town hall meetings at MIA where we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with management and answer questions about the details of the contract. Jeida Gonzales has been a big help to us because she’s bilingual and can help us translate whenever the terminology gets complicated for folks who speak English as their second or third language.”
Steward training and support at the smaller stations is a big priority. On a recent trip to Baton Rouge, CWA representatives Vonda Hardy and Jar’la Evans met with agents until 3 a.m. and then came back to talk to agents on another shift before heading to Lake Charles, Alexander, and Shreveport. “The feedback was wonderful,” said Vonda, “and we felt we were really providing the answers our members needed.” Jar’la added, “When weather or other flight issues keep us from visiting stations in person, we use phone and video calls to go over the fine details of the contract.”
Agents everywhere want and need the same thing: a safe, supportive workplace where every person gets the respect and opportunities they deserve.
Watch for more updates from other districts and Envoy Locals in upcoming issues of CWA Agents Connected and on Facebook.