American Airlines has filed a lawsuit against its mechanics unions, saying a concerted work slowdown has caused nearly 2,200 flight cancellations and delays since February and shows no signs of abating as the summer travel season begins on Friday.
The airline filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Texas against the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (TWU). The two sides have been in contract talks since 2015 following the American-US Airways merger.
American says mechanics are unlawfully engaging in a slowdown to gain leverage in negotiations. The lawsuit says they are taking an “inordinately long time to repair aircraft” and refusing to work overtime. It says the moves have resulted in 644 unplanned canceled flights and 1,500 delays, including 270 delays of two plus hours.
“The odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity is less than one-in-one billion,” the lawsuit says.
American’s allegations are strikingly similar to those leveled by Southwest Airlines against its mechanics union earlier this year during a bitter labor dispute. The airline, which said the maintenance delays and cancellations were costing the airline millions of dollars weekly, filed a lawsuit against the union in early March. The two sides reached a tentative contract later that month, and voting is still underway.
American said the alleged maintenance slowdown has intensified since the last negotiation session with the unions, overseen by the National Mediation Board, ended on April 25. The lawsuit says it is now causing an average 14 cancellations per day, compared with eight a day a few weeks ago.
It asked for a preliminary injunction against the union because the alleged campaign threatens to seriously disrupt the airline’s summer travel operations.
American said an additional 2,200 flights would be canceled or significantly delayed (2+ hours) during the peak summer travel season if the slowdown persists at current levels, which would affect more than 300,000 passengers. That compares with 914 canceled and significantly delayed flights since February.
Union officials said they are preparing a response. A big sticking point in the negotiations has been the proposed outsourcing of maintenance work.
When Southwest Airlines announced plans to build a new maintenance facility in Denver last week, TWU international vice president Gary Peterson chastised American on Twitter for fighting its mechanics union to offshore thousands of U.S.-based aircraft maintenance jobs to South America and Mexico.
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