After bringing American Airlines to its operational knees last summer, the airline’s mechanics won a generous contract right before the pandemic hit – a deal they would never get today.
Nonetheless, the TWU-IAM association (the former representing legacy American Airlines and the latter legacy US Airways) has faced furloughs because American and United – unlike Delta and Southwest – weren’t able to find creative ways to get employees to take buy outs or to work with their unions well enough on alternatives.
AMFA, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, has been trying to ‘raid’ American Airlines and seek to take away representation of the mechanics (a year after they took over representation of mechanics at Horizon Air who were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters).
The effort has been ongoing for some time but must be picking up steam because messages are going out from the international president of the Transportation Workers Union (TWU) as well as Air Division President Gary Petersen.
Now there’s truth to arguments on both sides. There are mechanics at American who find the combination of representation by TWU and IAM as an ‘association’ to be undemocratic and opaque. So there are employees who want to see their representation change. And AMFA is eager to come in, grow, and have more dues-paying members.
In some ways I’m surprised to see this effort apparently heating up, when it’s the flight attendants union at American that is weakest (and there’s certainly been some enthusiasm at the Association of Flight Attendants, part of the Communications Workers of America, to swoop in). However the length of time to get a contract still has some people at American unhappy, along with the lack of single representation.
It’s interesting to watch the infighting though, and recriminations over a ‘raid’ as though unions are ‘supposed to work together’ and not criticize or take resources as though those belong to the union itself rather than the members, and shouldn’t be responsive to members who may want a change. There’s more than a little Monty Python Life of Brian going on here.
Ultimately I doubt any union could have gotten a better contract than what mechanics wound up with, and ‘who gets member dues aside’ it’ isn’t clear how switching unions will make mechanics better off.