Some American Airlines mechanics shopping for a union
BY D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Friday, September 21, 2012
9/21/12 at 4:30 AM
Related story: American, pilots feuding over flight delays.
See previous stories about American Airlines and its Tulsa operations.
Some American Airlines mechanics are ready for a change in union representation.
The incumbent Transport Workers Union has represented American mechanics and related work groups since 1946, but some members question the union's effectiveness.
American's bankruptcy filing in November is leading to layoffs, wage and benefit cuts - on top of 2003 layoffs, wage and benefit concessions mechanics agreed to that were intended to avert a bankruptcy filing, mechanics say.
Two unions, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have been capitalizing on the TWU discontent and recruiting American mechanics since June.
Both AMFA and the Teamsters are holding recruiting/informational events in the next few weeks, officials said.
"These are difficult times for all of us at the American Airlines maintenance base," said Dave Stewart, an organizer for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. "It is clear the headcount reductions exceed what the TWU leadership led us to believe both here in Tulsa and in the rest of the system. It is time that we, the membership, replace the TWU as our union representative, and changing to another industrial union like the Teamsters will lead to more of the same.
"It is time we choose AMFA to represent our profession. The concessions-for-jobs approach has already failed us more than once, and the time for change is now."
To call for a union representation election, AMFA or the Teamsters must get signed authorization cards from 50 percent plus one of American's 11,500 mechanics and related workers, officials said.
AMFA organizers said they are less than 500 signed authorization cards away from the 50 percent plus one threshold.
"We own the (airport) line stations - Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, New York," said Don Rodgers, an AMFA supporter at DFW. "The Teamsters are in Tulsa, but they haven't had any luck at the line stations. A lot of guys at the line stations have had experience with the Teamsters elsewhere."
Chris Moore, an organizer for the Teamsters, said his union is encountering "a lot of enthusiasm."
At 10 a.m. Saturday, the Teamsters will conduct a worker-to-worker outreach program at the Hilton Garden Inn, Tulsa Airport, 7728 E. Virgin Court.
American mechanics are invited to meet with Teamsters-represented United Airlines mechanics who will speak about the union's effort in winning a strong contract in December.
"These (American) guys have issues that go back 10 years," Moore said. "They're tired of being beaten over the head. You have to bring order to the place, work with the company to get things better for the guys. We're gathering momentum."
About 5,000 mechanics and related workers are employed at American's Tulsa maintenance base, which employs 7,000 people overall.
American says it needs to cut more than 10,000 workers companywide, including at least 800 mechanics and related in Tulsa, and reduce labor costs by $1.06 billion annually to emerge from bankruptcy and compete successfully in the airline industry.
The company plans to close its Alliance Airport maintenance base in Fort Worth by year-end, and it also proposes to outsource up to 35 percent of aircraft maintenance now performed in house.
TWU spokesman Robert Gless said AMFA should provide evidence of its claims about nearing a representation election.
"If this does come to an election, we will proudly put the TWU record against AMFA's sad story," Gless said. "AMFA members were decimated at Northwest Airlines, outsourced at Southwest Airlines and voted out at United Airlines. AMFA is seen as a pariah in the labor movement and it has proven time after time that their organization lacks both the resources and allies to deal with a bankruptcy or a lengthy contract battle."
AMFA will hold a live webinar at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 that is intended to answer questions about the union, officials said. The presentation can be accessed through the internet on a personal computer.
"We're going to hold an informational meeting to reach everybody at once," Rodgers said. "You can sit at home with the privacy of your own computer, and we will be live to answer questions and emails.
"We think this may change the way people look at union organizing. What better way is there to get to the employee base at home rather than having your employer eyeball you at work?"
Original Print Headline: Some AA mechanics shopping for a union
D.R. Stewart 918-581-8451