Today’s News & Commentary — January 31, 2020
American Airlines has reached a tentative contract with the unions that represent the company’s mechanics and fleet service workers. Negotiations over a contract had been going on for more than four years. The negotiations were characterized by periodic bouts of tension, and included a work slowdown that led to a court battle—which the company eventually won. The tentative deal has been valued at over $4.2 billion, and includes wage increases, a profit-sharing agreement, and protections against outsourcing. American Airlines will continue its ongoing negotiations with its pilots and flight attendants. Hundreds of American Airlines pilots frustrated with the lack of progress on their negotiations picketed outside of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Wednesday. The picketing pilots, many in full uniform, carried various signs highlighting American’s unreliable scheduling procedures and recent poor operational performance, which the pilots say puts increased work pressure on pilots and other company employees.
Meanwhile, the Allied Pilots Association (APA) has sued American Airlines in a bid to halt the company’s flights between the United States and China. APA represents around 15,000 pilots working for American Airlines. The union is suing in Texas state court, alleging negligence on the part of the company for failing to stop all U.S.-China flights in the wake of the coronavirus. The union noted in a statement that other carriers, such as British Airways, Air Canada, and Lufthansa, have suspended such flights. Union president Eric Ferguson apparently also directed individual pilots to decline flight assignments that would take them into China.
One last air-related story: workers at Miami International Airport continued a six-day hunger strike they have scheduled to coincide with this weekend’s Super Bowl. The protest is a small but public one, involving a group of airport food service workers, some of whom have traveled from across the country, who have set up a tent outside the airport’s departure level for their fast. Most of the workers are employed by LSG Sky Chefs, one of the country’s largest airline catering providers. The workers hope to bring attention to the ongoing negotiations between Sky Chefs’ union, Unite Here, and American Airlines, one of the Sky Chefs’ largest contractors. Some of the workers’ primary demands include higher wages and better health insurance benefits. According to the Unite Here Local 355, only 19 percent of Miami Sky Chefs workers were enrolled in company health insurance in 2018. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has voiced support for the workers in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, and the NFLPA’s executive director spoke earlier this week in front of the protestors at Miami’s airport.
In presidential primary news, the national postal workers union announced its endorsement yesterday of Senator Bernie Sanders. The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) represents more than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service workers across the country. Alisha reported earlier this week on a Politico report cataloging organized labor endorsements across the Democratic primary field, noting that many national unions have been shy about endorsing a particular candidate. The APWU endorsement may not be that much of a surprise—the union endorsed Sanders in 2016. Elsewhere in the primary field, the New York Times reported yesterday on Joe Biden’s struggles to gain support among organized labor. While Biden has tried to position himself as the candidate best poised to win back union workers who the Democratic Party may have lost in 2016, Biden’s campaign has been met with relatively tepid support among union voters, with many surveys showing the combined union-household support for Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren outpacing support for the former vice president.