They're baa-ack!

It was only last February that a much-ballyhooed drive to organize retailers sputtered and ground to a halt, leaving behind a bagful of promises and, as one would-be organizer once put it, visions of "enthusiastic cadres of agents in various parts of the country."

Two of the individuals who were much involved in that abortive movement -- Frank Randazzo, formerly of a Pennsylvania travel agency, and Blake Fleetwood, co-owner of New York-based Planetarium Travel -- again are beating the drums of solidarity on behalf of their brothers and sisters in the trade.

This time around they say they will call for a boycott "against a major airline" by the end of the year in a bold thrust to reverse the depredations of commission cuts and caps. That's pretty strong talk, and maybe a bit foolhardy, too.

A labor lawyer hired by ASTA and the Coalition for Travel Industry Parity last fall warned that an agent union organized for the purpose of negotiating airline commissions would be illegal under current law.

And Paul Ruden, ASTA staff senior vice president of legal and industry affairs, is quoted as saying "Nothing has changed."

Randazzo, who is vice president of administration of the Travel Agents Guild, said he is contacting several thousand potential members who expressed interest in joining last time.

It might be prudent for any agents so buttonholed to think long and hard before sewing on this particular union label. A bargaining group that purports to represent both employees and employers, as this one hopes to do, treads uncharted and tricky ground when members' interests conflict over such sticky issues as wages and hours.

Adding airlines to the mix will not make it any easier.

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