When you check your bags with an airline you expect that it will arrive at its destination. Indeed, while lost bags are always a risk airlines are doing better than they used to. Delta and Alaska even guarantee timely bag delivery.
You’re giving your belongings over to the airline and though we’ve seen stories of thefts from passenger luggage that rarely happens here in the US. At most people complain about their bags being tossed around.
While the TSA has carte blanche to open your bags, the airline isn’t supposed to. When it happens it’s a huge breach of trust.
However acrimonious labor negotiations at American Airlines seem to now be affecting passengers, as a customer reports finding a union flyer in a checked bag after picking it up last Thursday at baggage claim.
American and its Mechanics Haven’t Gotten a Contract Done Since the Merger
US Airways had acrimonious labor relations. America West and US Airways pilots never agreed on a joint contract, so the merger of those two airlines was never completed before US Airways management took over American. I never understood how American’s labor groups thought that this management would be ‘good’ for them, throwing their support behind the deal.
Today the American-US Airways merger isn’t complete. There’s never been a joint maintenance contract for each of the two legacy work groups. Negotiations have been contentious, and are currently in mediation.
- American wants to be able to do more outsourcing. They promise current workers will keep their jobs and pay and work locations, but the average age of mechanics is in the mid-50s and they want to be able to shift work elsewhere over time — as United and Delta do.
- American wants lower health care costs. They want to move US Airways mechanics over to the legacy American plan.
- There doesn’t seem to be a strong reason for mechanics to agree to these changes. American Airlines gave employees across the board raises without insisting that changes be part of a contract. The airline says that’s made it harder to get mechanics to agree to a deal.
The carrier is offering terms they say are more costly than what United and Delta have with their mechanics, so a common refrain from management has been that they would happily sign either the United or Delta deal today. Workers say they don’t want a concessionary contract.
Things are Heating Up, With Passengers Caught in the Middle
Anecdotally there are reports that some of American’s recent operational challenges stem from maintenance slow-walking addressing of issues with aircraft.
Things got especially contentious last week when American messaged all of their employees about the negotiations on Jetnet, the company intranet. Legacy US Airways mechanics, represented by IAM local 141, picketed in several cities.
And on picketing day a passenger flying Pittsburgh – Dallas-Fort Worth – Fresno arrived at baggage claim to find a union flyer added to his luggage.
Whereas the US Airways pilot groups were like something out of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” with the West pilots (People’s Front of Judea) and the East pilots (Judean People’s Front) fighting each other instead of
the Romans Doug Parker and Scott Kirby, so it seems are there splits in the ‘alliance’ between the IAM representing legacy US Airways mechanics and TWU representing legacy American mechanics.
When I spoke with a TWU representative he pointed out that the flyer ‘wasn’t one of theirs’, that they had given templates to the IAM as there have been discussions about that union joining the “AAShouldCare” campaign but their use had not been authorized, and that the passenger originated in Pittsburgh, an IAM city.
In any case the Transportation Workers Union says they do not have any organized campaign to place flyers in passenger luggage, and wouldn’t instruct their members to do so since it would be a firing offense. However he conceded that if one passenger sent me the flyer, it probably wasn’t the only time this happened. The IAM has not responded to my inquires but I’ll update this post if they do.
American Airlines, for their part, says they “are dedicated to getting an industry-leading contract negotiated for all of our TWU-IAM team members. We are certain that will happen and hopefully soon.” As for the customer’s bag they “are investigating” it internally.