IAM-TWU Association threatens strike action at American Airlines; vows to shut airline down

As ongoing contract negotiations between American Airlines and the TWU-IAM Association representing mechanics and ramp workers have broken down, TWU President John Samuelsen confronted American President Robert Isom with a threat of “…the bloodiest, ugliest battle that the United States labor movement ever saw…” during a company-hosted Q&A session with employees at LaGuardia Airport.

“If we ever get to a point where there’s self help, we are going to engage in absolutely vicious strike action against American Airlines to the likes of which you’ve never seen, not organized by airline people, but organized by a guy that came out of the New York City subway system that’s well inclined to strike power and who understands that the only way to challenge power is to aggressively take it to them. We’re going to shut this place down,” Samuelsen said.

The clash took place one day after American filed a lawsuit in federal court against the TWU-IAM Association asserting that the unions have tried to “illegally gain leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.” In its filing, American stated more than 125,000 customers have been impacted to date, with 650 flights canceled caused by more than 1,500 maintenance delays.

The unions denied wrongdoing, calling the lawsuit “frivolous” and issued a statement in response to American’s accusation indicating that it was ready to return to the bargaining table if AA was a willing partner in meeting its contract demands.

Despite American publicly stating to its employees that it would remain committed to reaching  industry-leading agreements with its mechanics and fleet service agents and offering  “alternatively to sign a contract with language identical to any other U.S. airline if the union prefers,” no deal has been reached.

The parties have been negotiating to reach joint contracts for fleet service and mechanics following the American – U.S. Airways merger for three and a half years.