The merger of American Airlines and US Airways was unusual when it was proposed last year because it seemed to have the support of all the major employee unions involved.
But one of the biggest unions for US Airways is threatening to strike, and the group now has the support of its union brothers from American Airlines.
The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers -- which represents about 14,000 US Airways machinists, mechanics and fleet service workers -- has been trying to negotiate a new contract with US Airways for more than two years. It complains that its workers earn about 10% less than their counterparts at American Airlines.
The federal National Mediation Board has been called in to try to broker an agreement between the airline and the union, but union officials say no progress has been made.
The US Airways union asked the mediation board Wednesday for a release from negotiation, which would trigger a 30-day cooling-off period. If no deal is reached after the 30-day period, the union would be free to strike.
"We won't be treated differently than other employees at the airline," said Joe Tiberi, a spokesman for the IAM. "If management is unwilling to present a contract that is acceptable to us, we are prepared to strike."
An American Airlines spokesman said the carrier would like to reach an agreement with the union so it can eventually discuss a joint contract with workers from both airlines.
Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union of America, which represents 22,000 workers at American Airlines, says it is ready to support a strike by the US Airways workers.
"Management has said they want to have better labor relations than existed at either US Airways or the old American," said Harry Lombardo, president of the TWU. "Yet the airline's leadership has locked mechanics and other ground workers represented by IAM into a second-class status."