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Latest News - June 2012

June 14, 2012
TWU: Insurgent mechanics' unions launch membership drives at American Airlines
Source: Tulsa World
By: D.R. Stewart

Two insurgent aircraft mechanics unions have started organizing drives at American Airlines' Maintenance & Engineering Center in Tulsa and at other American facilities across the country, union executives said Wednesday.

The two unions, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are launching membership drives to win support from American mechanics represented by the Transport Workers Union.

The TWU has represented American mechanics since the M&E base was founded in 1946.

In 2004, an AMFA organizing drive at American fell short of calling for a union representation election.

Representatives of AMFA and the Teamsters said their organizing drives were inspired by widespread dissatisfaction among American mechanics toward impending wage and benefit cuts in American's bankruptcy restructuring.

American executives said the company must reduce TWU labor costs by $390 million a year, cut 4,300 mechanics and maintenance workers, and outsource up to 40 percent of aircraft maintenance now performed in-house to emerge from bankruptcy and compete successfully in the airline industry. The company has lost more than $10 billion over the past decade despite $1.62 billion a year in wage and benefit concessions agreed to by unionized mechanics, pilots and flight attendants in 2003.

"There is an AMFA (organizing) effort underway," said Louie Key, AMFA's national director. "What we're seeing is a grass-roots campaign by American Airlines organizers. We didn't go to them; they came to us.

"While it is a peculiar time with the bankruptcy to get involved with an organization drive, the mechanics feel their interests would be better represented by a craft union. We understand the specific issues an aircraft mechanic faces day after day on the job, as opposed to large industrial unions that represent everyone."

Leigh Strope, spokeswoman for the Teamsters, said "hundreds" of American mechanics contacted the union about representing them.

"They're interested in the strength and power that the Teamsters union can bring to the workplace," Strope said. "We have a strong reputation for getting workers great contracts and representing workers in the workplace.

"The (airline) industry is facing a lot of changes, and workers are looking for a stronger voice on the job. Bankruptcy or not, we have an obligation to our Teamster aviation mechanics and all aviation mechanics in the country to stand strong against outsourcing. We also need to do everything we can to prevent bankruptcy from being used as an excuse to outsource American jobs."

TWU executives are philosophical about the appeal of rival unions amid the unhappiness with American's bankruptcy, but they are harshly critical of AMFA.

"It's not to be unexpected since in most airline bankruptcies other unions have been active," said Mike McDonald, vice president of TWU Local 514 in Tulsa. "They have a right to do this."

Frank McCann, TWU's director of organizing, said AMFA's track record is one of unkept promises and failure.

"AMFA is a collection of liars, failures and parasites," McCann said. "They were responsible for every mechanic losing their job at Northwest (Airlines). They were booted out at United (Airlines). They agreed to off-shore maintenance jobs at Southwest (Airlines) in return for a little extra silver."

In 2005, 4,000 AMFA-represented mechanics at Northwest began a 15-month strike in protest of Northwest's demand for 25 percent wage cuts and reduced benefits. Northwest hired replacement mechanics and about 500 AMFA mechanics before the strike ended in 2006.

United Airlines mechanics voted in 2003 to be represented by AMFA, but in 2008 they reversed course, voting 4,113 (61 percent) for the Teamsters, 2,631 (39 percent) for AMFA.



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