American Airlines Accuses Mechanics of Intentional Delays over Union Disputes

This week, American Airlines filed for a preliminary injunction to stop what the company claims to be an illegal slowdown by its mechanic staff. 

According to American Airlines senior vice president of integrated operations, David Seymour, an estimated 125,000 customers have been affected by approximately 650 flight cancellations and at least 1,500 maintenance delays because of this slowdown. 

Essentially, he claims, the data indicates that the odds that the correlation of these factors is random—as opposed to a unified effort—is “less than one in one billion”.  

Now, American employs roughly 15,000 mechanics. And these mechanics, of course, are represented by a joint association of two labor unions:  the International Association of Machinists and the Transport Workers union.  These union affiliations work under different, individual contracts. 

This came to be after the 2013 American Airlines merger with US Airways.  At the time of the merger, IAM represented mechanics and fleet personnel who worked for US Airways while  TWU represented the same groups at American Airlines.  The merger caused them to negotiate a joint contract to cover approximately 31,000 workers who are all covered by at least ten separate contracts. 

Filing the injunction in the US District Court of Texas, Seymour goes on to say that the union has actually decided to gain illegal leverage of these contract negotiations through “coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.”  

Seymour also attempts to assuage that the company has, indeed, proposed a contract that is, in fact, the “best in the industry.”  And to prove this, he claims, “We’ve offered alternatively to sign a contract with language identical to any other US airline if the union prefers.”

In response, TWU President John Samuelsen—who leads the joint association—assures that there has been no slowdown.  The principal issue, he says, is that American has been focused on sending more maintenance jobs offshore.  He testifies, “This is about American’s effort to send blue collar jobs to South America.  If they are enjoining us for protecting the safety of US citizens who travel by air, we proudly accept their legal effort, which is an effort to intimidate mechanics to allow unsafe planes to take off with American citizens flying on them.”