American Airlines faces an imminent storm if it cannot reach an agreement with its mechanics. Why? The union has promised it.
American Airlines and TWU-IAM, the union representing AA mechanics, are locked in a bitter battle. American has filed a lawsuit against the union, seeking an injunction for what it describes as “illegally gain[ed] leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.” Put simply, AA accuses its mechanics of sabotaging flights by delaying or cancelling them to due to minor, non-critical issues.
The union posted the video below, an eye-opening exchange between John Samuelsen, the TWU President, and AA President Robert Isom:
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.
Those are fighting words.
Whatever your views on executive compensation and the plight of American workers, the mechanics appear to be breaking the law at this point. Federal law prohibits airline workers from legally striking until a mediator declares an impasse in negotiations. This has not occurred yet. Yet the “slowdown” by mechanics has led to delays and cancellations at such high numbers it is statistically improbable to argue the actions are not deliberate.
As the busy summer travel season approaches, I expect the “slowdown” to speed up. Look for more mechanical delays and flight cancellations. After all, the union has promised the “bloodiest, ugliest battle” to secure job security and increases in pay and benefits.
While I am truly sympathetic to many of the union demands/concerns, I am not sympathetic to the slowdown, which AA had every right to sue to stop. That said, how can a court force workers to “compromise safety” when these workers claim they are working as fast as they can? Even a court injunction won’t fix this problem.
What a sticky situation. As much as I would like to see it happen, I don’t expect a smooth resolution. Quite the contrary, I expect negotiations to deteriorate and may culminating in an actual strike this summer which will cripple travelers and quickly break Doug Parker’s promise of eternal profits…
(H/T: View from the Wing)