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Weary from standing, American Airlines ticket agents beg for stools

  • American Airlines customer service agent Elise Kannady says standing for hours on end results in "extraordinary pain."
  • She says all 35 of her co-workers want to have something they can perch on.
  • Nearly 5,000 American Airline workers have signed a petition addressed to American CEO Doug Parker asking for relief.

After a work day of standing in one place, Elise Kannady struggles to get out of her car once she gets home. "In just those few minutes of sitting, everything cramps up, so I'm limping," said Kannady, a part-time customer service agent for American Airlines at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

An American employee for about three-and-a-half years, Kannady said the trouble began quickly after she started working behind the counter. "If you walk around a little, it's not so bad. But when you stand in the same spot for hours, an extraordinary pain goes up my legs."

Every six to 10 weeks, Kannady gets what she describes as painful cortisone shots in the bottom of her feet. On days when she's working, she also takes an anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by an orthopedic doctor. 

Everyone of her co-workers, or about 35 people, would like to have something to perch on, Kannady told CBS MoneyWatch. "If we're real busy, I understand you can't sit on a stool and work fast. But there needs to be stools available for when we have down time, when there's nobody in line, and I stand there for hours."

Kannady isn't alone in her lament. Requesting a place to perch is part of an online petition so far signed by 4,850 American Airline workers. Addressed to American CEO Doug Parker, it states: "Customer service agents spend countless hours standing in one place on their feet. We are expected to work mandatory overtime and work delayed flights on our feet for 8 to 12 hours a day. Why can't the airline that wants us to be there to help our customers provide us with a way to relieve the stress on our legs?"

"And I'm only 51"

During a 12-hour shift, Kannady gets three breaks -- one lasting a half-hour and two for 15 minutes. But she said the work breaks aren't enough to offset the damage inflicted by standing for hours on end. "And I'm only 51," said Kannady. "It's not like you're talking to a 70-year-old who's complaining about having to stand."

When she first started, an older colleague would "bring a stool out after things died down," but that ended when a new manager came aboard and told the woman standing was part of the job. "That lady ended up quitting," said Kannady. 

American has given Kannady the option of transferring to a desk job behind a computer, but that would mean giving up the seniority and scheduling perks that come with her current position. "I'm trying to hang in there," said Kannady, who works between 24 and 34 hours a week and earns $13 an hour. 

American did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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