News Article - May 26 2006

22 Machinists Charged In Philadelphia Airport Brawl
  May 24--Warrants were issued Monday for the arrests of 22 members of the International Association of Machinists, who are accused of aggravated and simple assault, conspiracy, making terroristic threats, and theft in connection with a Feb. 8 brawl at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel. The union members, including three officers, are accused of assaulting organizers from a rival union, the Transport Workers Union. Ten of those charged turned themselves in yesterday and the rest will surrender on Tuesday, said Charles Ehrlich, the prosecutor who heads the municipal courts unit.

   Stephen "Randy" Canale, general chairman of the machinists' union branch that represents US Airways baggage handlers, said the union "does not advocate or condone violence." However, he said, "we discourage any rush to judgment based on incomplete accounts." The unions were in competition to represent baggage handlers and fleet-service workers at US Airways, which merged last year with America West Airlines. Since then, the unions have agreed that the machinists' union will represent all the baggage handlers. The machinists' union had represented US Airways' baggage handlers, the TWU America West's.

   "It's a sad chapter in the history of the IAM," said David Rosen, the Transport Workers Union's general counsel. "If they are guilty, they don't belong in the labor movement or as airline employees." The three union officers for whom warrants have been issued are Robert Boland, local president of IAM Local Lodge 1776 in Philadelphia; Anthony Armidio, assistant general chairman; and Vincent Cerasso, international representative. On Feb. 8, three men identifying themselves as machinists' union officials warned five TWU organizers to leave the hotel and the city, according to the arrest warrants issued Monday.

   A few minutes later, about 25 men entered the room and began throwing chairs, glasses, tables -- and punches -- according to a police affidavit. Two of the TWU organizers were beaten badly enough that they went by ambulance to Methodist Hospital. Hotel videotape captured the men in the hotel corridors, but not what happened inside the meeting room. US Airways officials were able to identify all those on tape, police said

   Shortly after the incident, US Airways fired the 22 men. The machinists' union responded by demanding arbitration for all the men and by filing a federal lawsuit that accused US Airways of trying to systematically eliminate union representation at US Airways facilities at Philadelphia International Airport. The suit said the machinists' union members acted in self-defense. US Airways said the suit had no merit. Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer