On Jun. 14, a Texas judge issued a temporary restraining order against the IAM-TWU Association at the request of American Airlines and ordered the unions cease interfering in the airline’s operations. The judge stated that the order was necessary not only to protect American Airlines, but also the traveling public.
The judge’s order follows a lawsuit that American filed against the unions on May 20. The carrier alleged that this operational crisis caused significant damage to American, its customers, and American’s employees. In its recent court filing, American stated that in the three week period since the lawsuit was filed, the slowdown worsened, causing 722 flights to be canceled due to maintenance delays, approximately 70% of the maintenance-related cancellations during the previous 14 weeks. These cancellations have impacted more than 175,000 customers.
Since 2015, American and the TWU-IAM Association have been attempting to reach joint contracts for fleet service workers and mechanics following the American – U.S. Airways merger. Despite intervention from federal mediators, the two sides have failed to reach agreement on pay, retirement, health benefits, and other issues. Tension between the unions and American has increased since contract negotiations broke down in April.
On May 21, the day after American filed the lawsuit against the unions, TWU President John Samuelsen publicly confronted American President Robert Isom about the stalled negotiations in an employee Q&A session at LaGuardia Airport vowing, “the bloodiest, ugliest battle that the United States labor movement ever saw.” Promising to shut the airline down, Samuelsen pledged strike action would be waged against American if it did not return to the bargaining table and meet the unions’ demands.
The judge’s order bars the unions and their members from participating in or encouraging interference with American’s operations, including any slowdown such as slowing job performance, refusing to work overtime, or other activities, if such is intended to keep planes out of service.