American’s labor issues
As I noted at the beginning of the year, this is going to be a tough year for contract negotiations between American management and their employees. American’s flight attendant contracts become amendable as of December 2019, while American’s pilot contracts become amendable as of January 2020.
Beyond that, American has been having consistent problems with their mechanics union, as the American and US Airways mechanics aren’t even on a single contract yet. So this has been an ongoing point of contention.
In my opinion American management is going to have a rough year of negotiations:
- American management gave employees an unprompted pay raise hoping it would generate goodwill; in reality it’s just going to make their negotiating more difficult, as they didn’t ask for anything in return
- With Doug Parker having bragged about how American will never lose money again and about how they’ll achieve a minimum of a three billion dollar profit every year, the unions will no doubt want their share of that as they negotiate
American is taking their mechanics to court
American Airlines has just filed an injunction against TWU-IAM, which is the union representing their mechanics.
American management claims that the union has tried to “illegally gain leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.”
They go on to say that “125,000 customers have been affected by 650 flight cancellations and more than 1,500 maintenance delays as a result of this slowdown,” and that “the odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity are less than one-in-one billion.”
As an update to this, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against mechanics, pending the July 1, 2019, trial.
American’s letter regarding their TWU-IAM injunction
Here’s the full letter American sent to employees regarding this injunction:
We are incredibly proud of our Tech Ops and Fleet Service team members. We are eager to deliver an industry-leading contract. Unfortunately, the union has chosen to illegally gain leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.
To date, 125,000 customers have been affected by 650 flight cancellations and more than 1,500 maintenance delays as a result of this slowdown. The data shows the odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity are less than one-in-one billion.
Today, we filed for a preliminary injunction against the TWU-IAM Association, the TWU and the IAM to stop this illegal activity so we can all get back to running our operation as efficiently as possible.
Most importantly, we remain steadfast in our commitment to reach an industry-leading agreement to benefit all our hardworking Tech Ops and Fleet Service team members. We’ve proposed a contract that is the absolute best in the industry. As proof of this, we’ve offered alternatively to sign a contract with language identical to any other US airline if the union prefers.
While we await direction from the National Mediation Board (NMB), we will continue to care for our Tech Ops and Fleet Service teams. Because current contracts provide different pay rates for holidays and maintain different recognized holidays, we have approached the union to approve a parity plan for both recognition of the holiday and holiday pay. This parity plan would provide 2.5x their hourly pay for all those working on this Memorial Day holiday. Additionally it provides all TWU-IAM team members, on a day off on Memorial Day, holiday off pay equal to their regularly scheduled hours. We hope the TWU-IAM will agree.
Thank you to our team members who continue to give 100% every single day. We appreciate everything you do to care for our team members and customers, and to help your airline thrive.
TWU-IAM’s response to American
Here’s how TWU-IAM has responded to American, which interestingly doesn’t deny any of their claims:
It is unfortunate that American Airlines has chosen to abandon negotiating with its employees and instead go straight to federal court. The airline is frustrated with the Association for refusing to allow more of our maintenance and repair work to be outsourced to South America, China and Europe. We are also standing strong against cuts to our medical benefits and retirement security. Our members value American Airlines fliers and work hard every day to ensure they have the best experience possible.
The association is ready and willing to get back to the bargaining table at any time and negotiate a fair joint collective bargaining agreement, but to do so would take a willing partner. We would much prefer to be at the negotiating table than in a legal battle brought on by American.
While I think American has some rough labor negotiations ahead of them with pilots and flight attendants, perhaps it’s the mechanics situation that’s most challenging. Delta and United do more outsourcing of maintenance work than American does.
So while American would be happy to have similar maintenance contracts to Delta and United, American mechanics want more. I can’t blame them for wanting to maintain what they have, though I also can’t blame management for needing to be competitive with Delta and United.
I guess we’ll see how this plays out…