A federal judge in Northern Texas on Aug. 12 ordered unionized mechanics at American Airlines to end a work slowdown that contributed to a spike in delays and cancellations over the first half of 2019
The permanent injunction comes after a preliminary order in June found the mechanics—represented by the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) — had engaged in a concerted work slowdown to gain leverage during contract negotiations beginning February 2019.
An American Airlines spokesman declined to comment, saying only that the court order “speaks for itself.”
TWU international president John Samuelsen said in an emailed statement the union “will fully abide by the permanent injunction and will continue to comply with the court’s directive.” He said the group “will also continue to bargain to win a contract that protects our members’ solid jobs on US soil.”
Representatives from IAM couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
American initially filed its motion for a preliminary injunction May 20, alleging the slowdown amounted to an illegal strike under the Railway Labor Act. The unions, in response, denied any concerted effort to organize a slowdown by their leadership, arguing the reduced level of output was a symptom of low morale caused by stalled contract negotiations and concerns over job outsourcing to South America.
Judge John McBride disagreed, writing in a memorandum opinion that a regression analysis commissioned by the carrier revealed a high probability the mechanics’ reduced output was caused by a concerted action.
He also cited a separate analysis that showed the rate of scheduled flights cancelled for maintenance-related reasons increased above historical norms after February 2019, suggesting the slowdown had an appreciable impact on American’s operations in the first half of 2019.
In addition to blocking mechanics from slowing down the performance of their job duties, the permanent injunction prohibits them from refusing to accept overtime work or take maintenance field trips to repair aircraft. The carrier has said there had been weeks with a 100% field trip refusal rate at its hubs in Charlotte, Phoenix and Philadelphia earlier in the year.