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American Airlines agents begin voting on union

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Customer-service agents at American Airlines have started voting on whether to be represented by a union, and results will be announced Jan. 15.

American went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in an unsuccessful effort to block the election.

About 9,700 workers are eligible to vote on the representation bid by the Communications Workers of America, which marked the start of the election with a rally at Boston's Logan Airport.

Union officials claimed Tuesday that American was trying to tilt the outcome by preventing recently furloughed workers, who have recall rights, from voting, and by including people hired since the union filed for the election.

A spokesman for American, Bruce Hicks, said the new hires should be allowed to vote.

"It's disappointing that the union would argue that nearly 1,000 people it wants to represent should not have a say in this election and in paying union dues," Hicks said.

The agents are the largest bloc of nonunion workers at American, the nation's third-biggest airline. Pilots, flight attendants and ground workers are represented by separate unions.

American is a unit of Fort Worth-based AMR Corp. Both the airline and the parent filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011 and have been trying to reduce debt and labor costs.