December 7, 2022

Momentum among airline workers continues to build as American Airlines pilots reject new tentative deal

American Airlines 737 plane in flight near Los Angeles International Airport [Photo by Eric Salard via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 2.0]

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) said on Wednesday that its board of directors rejected an agreement in principle (TA) for a new contract with American Airlines by a vote of 15-5.

The proposal would have increased pilots’ pay by 12% on the date the contract was signed with an increase of 5% the following year and 2% the following year. However, after the pilots worked for three years under the old contract with no pay rise during the coronavirus pandemic, and with annual inflation exceeding 8%, this 19% increase is extremely small.

“We cannot vote to approve a [tentative agreement] it does not adequately address the quality of life elements of our airline pilots,” APA officials at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport said in a letter to pilots. “The company has returned a proposal that not only falls below average in these areas, but also demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how important these issues are to you.”

There are growing signs that a major movement is underway among airline workers and pilots, in particular. The APA, which covers about 15,000 American Airlines pilots, rejected the AT just a day after United Airlines pilots vote an AR of 94%, and two days after 15,000 Delta Air Lines pilots voted 99% to strike. Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines pilots also voted to allow a strike, although they voted to accept a new three-year contract earlier this month.

Earlier this year, pilots and flight attendants held information pickets at airports across the country. Internationally, crew strikes also took place at Eurowings in Germany and Ryanair in Spain.

The main problem for AA pilots is overwork and unpredictable work schedules. These have worsened during the pandemic, adding to a pilot shortage that has been building for years. Over the summer, American saw the number of pilot fatigue calls increase to four times the normal rate, APA spokesman Dennis Tajer told AINonline.

As travel demand rises again with the dismantling of COVID-related restrictions, airlines are returning to profitability for the first time in years. However, they received tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout funds, ostensibly intended to pay furloughed workers and prevent layoffs. Nevertheless, airlines ended up laying off thousands of workers, contributing to pilot shortages, especially at regional airlines.

A study by Oxford Economics said there were 2.3 million fewer aviation workers worldwide in September 2021 compared to pre-pandemic figures. Staff shortages were already a chronic problem before the pandemic, but have been exacerbated by tens of thousands of workers leaving the industry and not being replaced.

Workers are also pushing for their demands in other essential transportation industries. On major US railroads, 120,000 workers are pushing for strike action and the rejection of sell-out contracts with White House involvement. As with pilots, irregular schedules and overwork are the number one problem for rail crews, who are on call 24/7 and have no guaranteed sick days. Workers in three of the 12 railway unions have already rejected their tentative agreements.

The rail and airline industries fall under the jurisdiction of the infamous Railway Labor Act, which severely limits the right to strike and prohibits the expiration of contracts.

On the west coast docks, 22,000 port workers have been working without contracts for three months since their contracts expired on July 1. The 800-member East Coast International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) was also set to strike at the Port of Mobile, Alabama, in October after members of Local 1410 dismissed three straight TAs.

A confrontation is brewing not only with the airlines, but also with the governments that have protected the airlines financially while condoning job losses. The union bureaucracy, just as it does in the railroad industry, strives to prevent a strike and dutifully enforce the terms of the RLA. Railroad workers organize against the sabotage of their struggle by the union bureaucracy by forming the Railroad Base Committee.

After this week’s strike vote at Delta, ALPA sought to downplay the threat of a strike: “Our goal is to reach an agreement, not strike. The ball is in management’s court,” the union said. This only emboldened Delta, who confidently stated that “this authorization vote will not affect how we operate for our customers” and that “there remain many steps in the process and many opportunities for collaborative negotiations.” even before a strike is authorized to be considered”. .”