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The Associated Press June 6, 2012, 5:48PM ET

American defends lawsuit to stop union election

American Airlines is defending its decision to file a lawsuit to block a union-representation election among ticket counter and gate agents.

Prominent congressional Democrats have urged American to let about 10,000 agents vote on whether to be represented by the Communications Workers of America.

Last month, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines sued the National Mediation Board to block it from holding the election. American said that under a new federal law, the union needs support from at least 50 percent of the agents before holding an election. The union argued that it needed just 35 percent support, the standard in effect when it filed for an election in December.

Spokeswoman Missy Cousino said Wednesday that American stood by its decision to sue the mediation board in federal district court in Fort Worth, Texas. She called the dispute "unprecedented" and said it "merits a court review before any election takes place."

Congressional Democrats have complained about the lawsuit to American, which is operating under bankruptcy protection and trying to break existing contracts with three other unions.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and two colleagues said Congress clearly didn't intend for the 50-percent standard to apply retroactively. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two other House Democrats last week told AMR CEO Thomas Horton that it was "troubling" that a company in bankruptcy would spend limited resources on a lawsuit to prevent employees from organizing.

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