Yesterday I wrote about how American Airlines filed an injunction against TWU-IAM, the union representing their mechanics (in the meantime a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against mechanics).
According to American’s management, the union has tried to “illegally gain leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.”
American claims that customers have been impacted by 650 cancellations and more than 1,500 maintenance delays as a result of this slowdown, and that the odds of this being random are less than one in a billion.
I’ve said that this is going to get very, very messy, and things are only going to get worse rather than better.
Union president confronts American president
Sometimes videos can better portray a situation than a written letter, and here’s the perfect example of that. American’s mechanics union has shared a video of the question and answer session that American President Robert Isom hosted on Tuesday at LaGuardia Airport.
This is next level. Here’s the video for those who have time to watch it:
To summarize as briefly as possible, the position of the union is that they’ve given huge concessions dating back to 2003, when American was more or less at its lowest point. Now the airline is making billions of dollars per year, and rather than giving mechanics a better contract, they want concessions.
But the way the TWU President confronts Isom to his face is just… wow. Here are a few of the things he says:
“I stand here to tell you that you’re not going to get what you want. If this erupts into the bloodiest, ugliest battle that the United States labor movement ever saw, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re already profitable enough.”
“If we ever get to a point where there’s self help, we are going to engage in absolutely vicious strike action against American Airlines to the likes of which you’ve never seen, not organized by airline people, but organized by a guy that came out of the New York City subway system that’s well inclined to strike power and who understands that the only way to challenge power is to aggressively take it to them. We’re going to shut this place down.”
Since the video is put together by the union it doesn’t capture Isom’s full response, though it does have this part of his response:
“Anybody that seeks to destroy American Airlines, that is not going to be productive. It just won’t.”
I’m so grateful I don’t work for a publicly traded company or one where I have to answer to shareholders. I see both sides here.
That’s to say that the head of union is telling Isom the airline is making “enough” money, and that they shouldn’t compare their maintenance costs to those of Delta and United. The problem is that at the end of the day Isom reports to shareholders, and they do very much care about the relative performance of American compared to Delta and United.
At the same time, our system for how all of this works is just so wrong. Isom’s compensation last year was over $7 million, while Parker’s compensation was over $12 million. “You need to pay executives well to retain talent,” you might say.
But here’s the thing — they made that much even though they didn’t actually do that great of a job. Parker has said that the absolute least American will ever make in a bad year is $3 billion, and that’s what American made last year, which was by most accounts a good year.
That kind of performance is worth $12 million in compensation?
Never mind the fact that these executives are so out of touch and unrealistic. Isom in the above video talks about how he wants to be sure American Airlines is a company that people want to work for for generations to come. Did he not see the results of their employee survey?
Our system is fundamentally screwed up, in my opinion. Isom is doing what executives at big companies have to do (which is often justifying their massive bonuses by not paying their workforce well). And I don’t blame the head of the mechanics union for doing what he has to do to get a good contract for him and his colleagues — they’re not asking for million dollar salaries, they just don’t want their jobs to be outsourced.
American has had big problems with maintenance delays, and something tells me things are about to get a lot worse. Like, a lot worse. We saw the “summer from hell” at United years ago, and something tells me that American’s mechanics might just be replicating that at American in 2019…
How bad do you think things are about to get?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)