Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 26 other New York-area members of Congress sent a letter to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and to the heads of the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists.
American’s mechanics and ramp workers have maintained their separate legacy US Airways and American unions, and they’re negotiating as part of an ‘association’ however each work group has different interests. Negotiations have gone badly – there is still no post-merger contract – with primary issues including moving US Airways employees over to the less generous American Airlines health plan and the amount of outsourcing American is permitted to do.
Wading into this thicket the New York members of Congress offer (full text .pdf),
There have been several instances in which foreign repair facilities have failed to meet this standard in key areas of safety and security, particularly as pertains to drug and alcohol testing and security background checks. We hope any current overseas employees who have an impact on the safe operation of flights are held to the same high standards as those here at home, while continuing to have a qualified, domestic workforce.
- Airline domestic maintenance facilities have had their own reported issues (such as this and this).
- Domestic outsourcing facilities have had their own issues (such as American’s Boeing 737 retrofit issues earlier this year)
Indeed foreign facilities are required to conform to U.S. standards. American Airlines employs non-union mechanics abroad who do work at their local stations. At issue, for instance, is how much work those American Airlines employees can do while planes spend their days on the ground in Brazil, arriving in the morning and taking off at night. And many foreign facilities are exemplary, such as HAECO in Hong Kong.
Ultimately American Airlines outsources far less than United and Delta do, and that should remain true even if the company gets its way in a final contract. So American is hardly the ‘labor bad boy’ here for politicians to grandstand over.
Maintenance work needs to be overseen properly, work needs to be checked, that’s true whether the work is performed in the U.S. or abroad, by union members or non-union workers. One worry over requiring maintenance work to be done by union workers domestically is that high cost maintenance is what airlines might try to avoid. For safety’s sake maintenance needs to be affordable. Lower cost quality maintenance allows an airline to consume more maintenance.
Ocasio-Cortez, Peter King, Jerrold Nadler, Nita Lowey and others ought to stay in their lane.