American Airlines’ Feud With Its Mechanics Worsens on Brink of Peak Summer Travel

Jun 10, 2019

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American Airlines customers could be caught in the crossfire this summer as the already acrimonious relationship between management and mechanics appears to be deteriorating.

The latest sign of escalation came Monday, when the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and Transport Workers Union (TWU) took out a full-page ad Monday in The Wall Street Journal. The ad screamed “INVESTORS BEWARE” before going on to bash management.

The union accused American’s top executives of adopting an “Un-American business plan” that includes a wish to send maintenance jobs out of the county.

“Our Unions will not be broken,” the ad continued. “We will continue to resist AA’s unacceptable demands even if it means a strike action following release by the National Mediation Board.”

It comes as American and its mechanics continue to negotiate a new contract. The sides have been in talks for more than three years.

Despite the ad, American said its hopeful it can reach an agreement with the mechanics.

“We’re eager to reach a deal with the Association as soon as possible,” American spokesman Joshua Freed told TPG.

As for the unions’ claim about outsourcing, Freed said: “American does more maintenance work in-house today than any other U.S. airline, and would continue to under our proposal.”

But the back and forth comes amid escalating rhetoric, including claims by American that mechanics are intentionally causing delays and cancellations with unnecessary maintenance write-ups.

American had already sued the unions in May, alleging in a court filing that mechanics are intentionally slowing down work to delay American’s operations.

At the time of the suit, American alleged actions by maintenance teams had caused 650 flight cancellations and more than 1,500 maintenance delay since February, affecting about 125,000 passengers during that time.

The feud also has spilled over into social media, where videos have surfaced of verbal scuffles amid maintenance workers. At least one of those was posted by One Mile At a Time.

Last month during a employee town hall meeting at LaGuarida Airport, a local CBS affiliate captured video of TWU president John Samuelsen confronting American Airlines president Robert Isom, promising “vicious strike action” if the sides can’t reach a deal.

“I stand here to tell you — in front of this whole room, in front of everybody, anybody who’s listening — that you’re not going to get what you want,” Samuelsen about the contract negotiations. “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.”

The unions representing American Airlines' mechanics posted this ad in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, June 10, 2019.
The unions representing American Airlines’ mechanics posted this ad in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz, TPG)

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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