The summer from hell has passed for American Airlines. Despite no announcements of any deals with their unions, all seems calm among labor groups at the world’s largest carrier, but that’s deceiving.
Summer Was Rough
The mechanics allegedly did some real damage to the carrier during the busy summer months. So much so that American Airlines management was able to secure a court order against the mechanics union to stop worker action. It showed in their on-time ratings, customer satisfaction scores, and the company’s bottom line. They wanted to make their feelings about working without a new contract (for more than two years) and the mechanics delivered.
One rogue mechanic even caused a safety issue, something both mechanic labor unions and the airline denounced.
I was reviewing topics covered in 2019 and realized that the labor issues American Airlines faced have not come up in some time. American Airlines has been mum about the contract negotiations neither mentioning them nor blaming any lingering problems. Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal put the carrier in last place this year based on metrics including on-time performance, federal complaints, etc.; the world’s largest carrier is looking up to Frontier, United, Allegiant, and the vaunted Spirit. Matthew questioned whether American really was worst.
The unions have not taken any further action and had been quiet even by their own measure. They issued a statement on their website addressing their progress dropped just before the Christmas holidays. It included this little note:
“As most of you know, we also agreed to limit communications in a manner that would not create more rumor or inuendo from either side.”
They’ve Made No Progress At All
Flight Attendants were the first to vocalize their displeasure with the carrier. The mechanics had their say. In the last few months, American pilots have also stated that their deal is in need of a polish. Many gate agents have voiced malcontent on this blog in the comments, echoing their fellow frontline employees.
To date, the pilots and flight attendants have no further progress toward a contract. Mechanics may have come out further behind than even the summer. Why? Because they have made no progress toward their contract – I’m not blaming them, just reiterating what they’ve already stated – but now they don’t hold the power of a threat from industrial action.
From the TWU-IAM union’s blog on December 19th:
“Compensation: Management negotiators have walked backwards from their previous public statements and are now only offering the Pay of Delta or Southwest, and with managements 2% out year raises, our members will fall behind in pay once again. This is something CEO Parker has stated would not happen.
Retro Pay: Company Negotiators have flat out insulted our members with their demand for a zero retro payout and have offered a “bonus” that will not cover the missing payday loan they are asking of nearly three quarters of the Association Membership. Remember, retro is a one-time payment to our members for the labor we provide that earns billions of dollars for this company. Our retro pay is no different than management’s stock buy backs of 3.8 billion in 2015, $4.5 billion in 2016, $1.4 billion in 2017 and $2 billion in 2018, except it is in the millions – NOT BILLIONS!
Payroll System: Management is also demanding our members who aren’t paid two weeks in arrears agree to a self-funded Company payday loan demand, so they can switch payroll systems. Obviously, we are fighting this demand since they must pay members weekly by law in some locations. We know the system will accommodate the way our members are currently paid, it just takes more effort on Management’s part to do. Management Negotiators have not offered any other solution to their payroll problem, other than demand our members accept the change to two weeks’ pay in arrears. Just this past week, they made another insulting attempt to convince us the switch was not as bad as we say. Later, Management finally admitted they are demanding TWU members, who are paid biweekly, would be funding an 80 hour payday loan to themselves in order for American to make the payroll change.
Scope Protection: We also remain apart on Scope Protection for our members. Management Negotiators continue to make demands that we accept their proposal that we do significantly less work in the future than we do today. These open items are Scope provisions that we currently have, and are fighting to protect, not additional items.
Vacation: Finally, we are so significantly apart on Vacation that every member should be disgusted with how American views us compared to Management. Their proposal insults all of us by demanding a 5th week of vacation at 25 years and a 6th week of vacation at 30 years, even though management enjoys a 5th week of vacation at 17 years “right now.” Our members have earned the 6th week of vacation at 25 years through the sacrifices made in the work we do.”
American Airlines management may have found a way to quiet the mechanics and get operations back on schedule, but customers have taken notice. Worker groups at American may have gone quiet publicly as they have agreed with management, but still don’t have a new contract and by the attendance record of management’s negotiators as well as Isom and Parker, it doesn’t look like they will get one any time soon. It may have gotten quiet, but the problem hasn’t gone away.
What do you think? How long will it be before labor groups at American have a deal? They can’t take industrial action as they appeared to have done in the past, so how will the labor groups affect change?