The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and Transport Workers Union (TWU) have agreed to jointly represent nearly 30,000 mechanics and ground workers at American Airlines after its merger with US Airways.
The two unions signed an agreement to cover three employee work groups: mechanics and related, fleet service and stores.
Each union is requesting the US National Mediation Board (NMB) to hold elections among the employees after the merger closes.
If workers ratify representation under the partnership, negotiating committees formed from each union would work out a new collective bargaining agreement together.
The IAM represents the mechanics and related, fleet service and stores groups at US Airways, while the TWU represents those groups at American Airlines. The IAM also represents maintenance instructors at US Airways.
The TWU represents dispatchers, flight crew training instructors and simulator engineers at both airlines.
"I am proud that our two great unions put the members first in a true demonstration of solidarity," says IAM International president Tom Buffenbarger. "These agreements protect our members' representation, pensions and seniority. Working jointly with the TWU, we will ensure both unions' members are rewarded in this merger."
The unions say in communications with employees that working together will provide leverage to create the best labour agreement it can for workers. It says the joint agreement will allow both parties to avoid wasting time on representation disputes that could have negative consequences for members.
"This agreement allows us to use our combined strength and resources on behalf of all our members as we move forward at the new American Airlines," says TWU International president James Little. "Both unions have decades of experience representing workers at US Airways and American Airlines and both unions are members of the AFL-CIO [American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations]."
While the alliance is a step towards simplifying labour relations as the carriers merge, there is still the threat of outside pressure.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced on 7 May that it had filed an election application with the NMB to represent more than 4,000 mechanics and related workers at US Airways. It told media that more than 60% of those workers supported the change.
The union also said that it planned to file an application for American Airlines' more than 11,000 mechanics.
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, a union representing mechanics at Southwest Airlines, Mesaba and Alaska Airlines, is also running a campaign to attract enough American Airlines workers to file for an election with the NMB.
US Airways' IAM-represented workers are continuing to work with the standalone carrier to ratify a new collective bargaining contract under their own terms before the merger closes.