American Airlines Back at the Negotiating Table, Proving Pilots Know How to Use a Monkey Wrench

Categories: Schutze

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Let's count this out. First, American Airlines management threatens to haul the pilots union into court if the pilots don't stop finding ways to screw up the flight schedule.

See also:
- American Airline Pilots' Slowdown Wins a Victory, Despite What You Read in the
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Second, seats on American Airlines airplanes start popping loose with passengers in them, flying around the cabins like rides at Six Flags but way less fun.

Third, management sticks with its screw-you posture on talks.

Fourth, on another American flight from Dallas passengers are told that instead of preparing to arrive in St. Louis as expected they should maybe prepare for their everlasting reward because the landing gear won't work. The gear works after all, but you know. Shit!

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So, who's up for a little negotiating now?
Finally and fifth, yesterday airline management suddenly decides to make nice. It suspends all of the new work rules that had the pilots so pissed off in the first place. And today we get this headline in The Dallas Morning (Company) News: "Union to resume negotiations with American Airlines." The story says, "... leaders of the pilots union have agreed to come back to the bargaining table."

The pilots, no fools, insist the schedule interruptions were not deliberate; they had nothing to do with the flying seats; the landing gear thing was real. So in this sudden resumption of talks, what do you and I think we are looking at? Serendipity?

The story here is not that the pilots union agreed to come back to the table, like they were naughty 3-year-olds who wouldn't sit in their chairs and eat their dinners. The story is that the company finally gave up on a strategy of using its political connections and a bunch of Republican judges to shaft the union.

Looks to me like management, in the face of absolute ruination, ducked its head, shoved its hands in its pockets and begged the union to come back for talks.
I say again: It worked.

Now, if I were you, I would ask me this question: Jim, are you in favor of loosening the bolts on the airplane seats? Or how about the thing with the landing gear: Whatever was or was not going on there, Jim, do you really like a labor/management negotiating ploy that involves telling passengers they're all gonna die? How would you have felt had you been on that plane with your family?

Bad. I would feel bad. I would not be happy. I would be unhappy with the pilots, management, the maintenance crews, whoever was responsible. And no matter what happens from here on out, I am never flying anywhere on any airline without kicking my seat several times before I get in it.

But look, this is where things wind up if you keep stacking the deck in favor of management. If all of the labor law and the bankruptcy law and the case law winds up stacked against workers and in favor of management, then there's only one thing left for labor to use. Monkey wrench law.

Why do we think we ever got union protection law in this country in the first place? If labor gets pushed to the absolute brink and is allowed no reasonable quarter, then really bad things happen. People don't just dry up and blow away. Drying up and blowing away is not an American tradition, and I am using the national term, not the name of the airline.

If American Airlines management sits down at the table and bargains in good faith with the pilots today, it will have everything to do with the flight delays, the flying seats, the everlasting reward and all the rest of it. It will happen because management finally grew desperate to find some way to make it all stop.

Yeah, it has been ugly. No question. But in this battle we can look ahead and see what the whole country faces if we don't find some way to reverse the fascist tilt distorting our entire economy and society. The lesson of our national history is that we can do this nice or we can do it ugly. But we are going to do it. In the end we should thank the pilots for reminding us how this really works.


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40 comments
halldecker
halldecker

First time in the US,  the Concorde flew into DFW opening day.  Chamber of Commerce-type asked the French pilot what he thought of the new,  great, world's largest airport.   "Concrete must be cheap here."

 

You're right,  DFW has been an incredible investment.  

 

Betting the farm on AA hasn't been.  AA's arrogant management didn't learn lessons from Braniff (which they drove out of business.)  Remember "We better be better,  we're Braniff!"    Change that to AA.   

 

Since Delta mostly left DFW I fly to ATL and change planes to avoid flying AA. 

 

I'd gladly pay a $25+ premium to fly SW.  

 

don.abbott
don.abbott

For those of us that gave up on American Airlines along time ago, all any Dallas passenger wants is Love Field back.  We got it, sort of, in two years.  For the drones that defend the American way when it comes to the Wright Amendment, what were we going to do for a second airport if Love Field did get shuttered and the runways tore up.  Wait, I know, we'd need to beg, borrow, or steal 5 billion to build a second airport in Bum Buck.  When Casey, Folsom and Wright came out of the back room, they forgot to address the population issue.  What a scam.  

lambestew
lambestew

This airlines is like a pyramid scram we all pay into it.its just management keeps getting paid and moving off the top and labor remains at the bottom bring in the money we just want to move up and get our share but that will never happen because we all know how pyramids end the top gets the money and the bottom walks away with nothing

halldecker
halldecker

I'm laughing my ass off.

Karma,  that's what it is.

 

AA under Fang (Crandall) was hard-assed,  the biggest mutha in the whole damn Valley.

 

They killed Braniff,  Legend,  ran off Spirit the first time,  got their bought and paid for pol pals to pass the Wright Amendment,  sending their oldest and loudest planes to Love Field with instructions to make all the noise possible to get the locals pissed enough to make SW move to DFW,  etc.

 

Payback is a bitch!

 

Tragedy is,  AA is taking loyal employees who put up with their crap for decades down with them.

 

I doubt seriously they give a fuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fb2012
Fb2012

This is at least the third management team the pilots didn't like. It doesn't matter who is at the helm. When Eastern Airlines got Frank Borman (a pilot) they still fought with management and tanked the airline. American pilots are about to do the same thing. When they do they can learn the joys of going to the bottom of someone else's seniority list or changing careers late in life. The pilots need to stop bad mouthing the management and have a serious discussion about a contract the airline can afford. If they want the same pay system as management then they need to give up what makes their employment unique - job protection, seniority rules and an appellate process for any grievances.

HeywoodUBuzzoff
HeywoodUBuzzoff

JimSX -- I fly AA 3-5 times a month and the pilots are definitely rougher around the edges. On Monday my flight from SFO had a landing path that would have been very familiar to any military member or vet flying in a C-17 into a hot combat zone.  Full reverse thrusters ASAP and then a twenty minute tour of the taxiways.  

 

And the reason AA was pissed about the lose seats (the first time in decades and three happen at once) is not because some passengers actually had some legroom for once.  

 

A curse on both the pilot union's house and AA.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Jim, you said:

 

"Third, management sticks with its screw-you posture on talks."

 

Isn't this the standard position that AA takes in all of its labor negotiations?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

I wish people would try to learn what fascism really is instead of carelessly throwing it into every utterance about the opposite political party.  Fascism embraces a lot of conservative, right leaning ideals, yes, but it also denounces conservatism.  It particularly denounces conservative economic principles.  In economics, Jimbo, fascism lines up more with leftist ideals of nationalization and government regulation of the economy.  Also, while fascism specifically condemns class warfare, in this scenario, a fascist ideology would side with the workers over the bourgeois management class.

 

Also, could we get a link to the credible news source that describes seats "flying around the cabins like rides at Six Flags"?  I see credible news stories of seats 'coming loose' in flight, and planes landing with no further incident.  No injuries were reported. (from CNN stories).

 

This ends our moderate interruption of your programming.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled Schutzian Extravaganza.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Was it a chickenshit move by the pilots, authorized or not? Yes. Did it work? Yes, for them. Did it work without damaging lots of other aspects of the business? No.

 

They had a tantrum and got the candy bar they wanted. But they also pissed off management (which they don't care about), other employees not covered in their union, and most importantly, customers. Do the pilots give a fuck that their little maneuver fucked up travel plans for thousands of paying customers, some with little choice but fly American but who still may choose to fly other airlines when possible now? And do they care if enough of those customers book elsewhere that's less jobs for pilots and even shakier financials for the company they obviously love so much they're willing to fuck with?

 

I'd like to think I speak for most people who live in DFW who are stuck with American for most of our flying needs when I say this: Fuck your shenanigans, pilots. I'm aware it wasn't every pilot, and I thank the ones who didn't go along with it. But for the rest it was a douchebag move. Selfish assholes. 

James080
James080

Next time an American employer moves their labor intensive operations to China or Mexico, lets all cheer the hard-fought victory won by the pilots union, a victory earned by violating federal law and endangering airline passengers.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @don.abbott sorry to pop your wittle love field bubble, but that shithole could never handle the commerce that comes through DFW.  Oh and watch, when Wright goes away, watch fares go up even more over there.   The more the restricitons have lifted, the more its been costing to fly SW out of there

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @Scruffygeist yo scruffy, this has happened at every airline that went in bankruptcy, we just didnt notice rbecause those airlines made up less than 10% of the flying we see around here.  I pomise, it was a national story when Delta, NWA, continental, US and all the others were going through the same thing.  in the end, when alls well that ends well,  the passengers will be back flying AA

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@Scruffygeist

The Bankruptcy card was played as a move to bust the Unions

This is what happens when the Unions Bust back ..

Now we can see how ownership will deal with a real bankruptcy situation.

 

What kind of idiots are in charge at American that they didn't see this coming ?

observist
observist topcommenter

 @James080 Yes, yes, workers should just be thankful they have any jobs at all, and accept whatever wages and working conditions their managerial betters deem appropriate.  In fact, they should just give back any wages above the rates paid in Mexico or China, lest the golden goose fly away and leave us all bereft.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @James080 pleas show us what federal laws were violated?  waiting, waiting

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @James080 That's a facile answer that begs the question (real meaning of begs the question, as in, does not answer the question, not ungrammatical usage of TV anchors, as in, raises the question.)

What are the limits of management's leverage? Is the off-shore option an absolute automatic King's X on all labor demands? So why doesn't management go back to the pre-union policy of  the automakers, who refused to let assembly line workers take any break and told them to soil themselves if they couldn't hold it?

Saying that the work will go off-shore any time and every time labor  makes a demand is the same as saying labor can make no demands.

I'm sure you see a line. Where is it?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @blastidge69 I'm going to guess you were not on the debate team.

deep-sigh
deep-sigh

 @JimSX  @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  Ha! that's why on a my trip from LAX to DFW on AA Tuesday, I shook all the seats in my row AND the row in front of me, looked at the FA and said "these rows are good to go"...

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @JimSX

Jim, are you insinuating that the seats were not properly bolted down on purpose?  If so, there is indeed a very major problem if some torqued off union guy is willing to put my life at direct risk just so he/she can get his "gotcha" at management.

 

These guys (both AA groups: labor and management) need to disappear into a black hole and let someone else start over with a blank slate.

 

They have been at each others throats for so long that I honestly believe that it is impossible for them to work with each other in a cooperative manner to achieve a common goal.

 

No matter what is the outcome of this latest round of negotiation, if we assume that it is successful in an agreement being reached, and AA exits from bankruptcy court, I am willing to lay money on the table that within 6 months one of the two groups will do something that the other group will accuse the other of some nefarious deed and will take some sort of "unauthorized" activity.

 

More than likely, I see the AA executives awarding themselves retention bonuses for having successfully exited bankruptcy court and the labor groups will do the following:

 

Pilots: Sickout, slow taxiing; and, more coffee pots redtagged

Flight Attendants: More surliness to passengers

A&P Mechanics: Whoops forgot to tighten up those bolts holding on the seats among others

Ground Crews:  Baggage, what baggage?

 

Nothing is going to change at AA.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @JimSX Not by any measure, certainly not by the measure of fascist doctrine.  Fascists are vehemently opposed to capitalism, materialism, and property rights.  I can see your point to an extent, with the xenophobia and outright racism displayed by many on the right, and certainly many republican elected officials.  However, Republicans, as a whole, promote, aspire to and embrace free market capitalism (even in cases where it makes no sense), private property as a sacred cow, and individual freedom (even in cases where it contradicts the common good).  Keep in mind, I see a separation between 'Republicans' as a population segment, and elected republicans, just as i see a distinction between 'Democrats' and elected democrats.  (And I'm not affiliated with and will never vote for, either of them).

 

As for your link, the roller coaster ride and 'flying around the cabin' in that story, much like your own, was journalistic license, and not accurate.  A row of seats, flying around the cabin, would have caused injuries, and none were reported.  Further down in his story the journalist, probably a bit sheepishly, lowered his bullshit target a bit and said they slid around the cabin.  It doesn't diminish the potential for disaster if you try to keep your reporting on the believable side of ludicrous once in a while.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @RTGolden1 Not that the unions are pure.

"Monopoly capitalism does not rest on competition and free private initiative but on centralized command. The capitalist cliques at the head of mighty trusts, syndicates, banking consortiums, etcetera, view economic life from the very same heights as does state power; and they require at every step the collaboration of the latter. In their turn the trade unions in the most important branches of industry find themselves deprived of the possibility of profiting by the competition between the different enterprises. They have to confront a centralized capitalist adversary, intimately bound up with state power. Hence flows the need of the trade unions – insofar as they remain on reformist positions, ie., on positions of adapting themselves to private property – to adapt themselves to the capitalist state and to contend for its cooperation. In the eyes of the bureaucracy of the trade union movement the chief task lies in “freeing” the state from the embrace of capitalism, in weakening its dependence on trusts, in pulling it over to their side. This position is in complete harmony with the social position of the labor aristocracy and the labor bureaucracy, who fight for a crumb in the share of superprofits of imperialist capitalism. The labor bureaucrats do their level best in words and deeds to demonstrate to the “democratic” state how reliable and indispensable they are in peace-time and especially in time of war. By transforming the trade unions into organs of the state, fascism invents nothing new; it merely draws to their ultimate conclusion the tendencies inherent in imperialism."

Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, Leon Trotsky, 1940.

James080
James080

 @oakclifftownie  @Scruffygeist In a very visible way, it is managements fault. The last time the APA staged an illegal work action over a decade ago, the union was fined $45,000,000 for its actions. American management let them off the hook on the fine in subsequent labor negotiation. Now of course the APA runs another "unsanctioned" illegal work action, denying complicity with a nod and a wink, but knowing if APA is in fact fined, American management will have to ultimately waive it in negotiations.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

 @oakclifftownie  Honestly, I don't care. They can bicker back and forth and play whatever games they want, but when you start directly affecting your customers it's a whole different story, and a bullshit one. 

 

No passenger who gets fucked by this cares who started it.

James080
James080

 @ScottsMerkin ""To be clear, APA has not authorized any concerted job action and APA disapproves of any such illegal activity. If, as Ms. Lynn alleges, pilots are using their professional discretion to delay departures through unnecessary checks, frivolous maintenance write-ups (and late filing), slow taxiing to increase block times, and taking circuitous routings, that activity must cease immediately." - APA president Keith Wilson

 

I'm referring to the actions Mr Wilson describes as "illegal activity" and is trying to (wink-wink-nod-nod) disavow. I believe he is referring to violations of the Automatic Stay Order in the Chapter 11 proceedings, and violations of the the Railway Labor Act, which applies to airline's management-union relations. Clear?

 

 

James080
James080

 @JimSX Management has virtually no leverage over the APA, except Mutually Assured Destruction. AA can't replace the pilots or off-shore their labor.

 

"So why doesn't management go back to the pre-union policy of  the automakers, who refused to let assembly line workers take any break and told them to soil themselves if they couldn't hold it?" 

 

Maybe they don't want the pilots pissing in the cockpit.

 

 Businesses don't all "...go off-shore any time and every time labor  makes a demand...," they go off-shore when labor costs and work rules destroy the profitability of their business.

 

APA rejected AA last best offer, then when they lost in court and had their contract tossed, they resorted to illegal work actions because they knew AA management has no leverage other than MAD. You pretty much wrote two columns making this same point . Even if the judge fined and de-certified the union, the pilots would continue illegal work actions and drive the airline into liquidation.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @JimSX Yes, Yes Jim, I understand seats coming loose in flight would probably be ill received by passengers.  I, myself, would probably be shitting lace doilies were I on-board. Were I on board with my kids, I'd have torn the first AA ground crew member I came across into tiny bits, properly dispensing my anger at those who put my spawn in danger. (That's why I added the disclaimer line in my last comment, which you probably glazed over in your age addled fervor to be witty and clever.)  

I think the part that you're missing here is management didn't loosen those seats.  That was Union boys and girls, with a capital U, installing and servicing those seats.  That was your "Hero" class putting little Jimmy in mortal danger back in Coach, not the evil bourgeois fat cats.

I understand you HAVE to make it the fault of management, or else pull down the idols of your own hastily concocted supreme beings.  However, were your son on board that flight with you, would you be calling for management's head, or would you be pointing that shotgun at the jackoffs who installed the damn seats?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @RTGolden1 Hey. RT. I'm on a plane up in the air? My seat comes unbolted? Sorry, buddy, maybe I'm just a chickenshit, but for me that's this:

http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&sa=X&biw=1600&bih=775&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=lEGyBWJ9S_kOwM:&imgrefurl=http://aloqmalai.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/the-most-scariest-roller-coaster/&docid=IB-EWrBlug2vLM&imgurl=http://aloqmalai.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/japan-roller-coaster-2.jpg%253Fw%253D604&w=483&h=623&ei=jYFsUMjPFMf1rAGh34CwCA&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=2&sig=101983126117780690916&page=1&tbnh=126&tbnw=109&start=0&ndsp=36&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0,i:133&tx=589&ty=293

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @Scruffygeist  @James080 To quote the inimitable Bob Crandall when he was being pitched the Boeing 777 and was being told by Boeing how much it costs to build:

 

"Here is 35 cents.  Go call someone who cares."

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

 @James080  What part of I don't care did you not understand? Every single person associated with AA needs to realize their customers think their airline collectively sucks right now.

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