Misguided emotions, union misbehavior, and government intervention on behalf of Big Labor are collectively combining to threaten jobs and are putting in danger any potential deal between American Airlines and U.S. Airways which might serve to save American.
This most recent attempt to ram Big Labor’s agenda through the airline industry has been orchestrated by none other than Democrats in the United States Senate, who waded into the merger and accompanying battle to force costly union elections upon American Airlines -- elections which could delay their merger with U.S. Airways and force them to spend millions they need to restructure. CWA, the Communications Workers of America, is looking to represent American’s 3,000 passenger service attendants, but an election now would delay the merger process and obviously confuse American’s employees, who are about to transfer to an entirely new entity.
Yet Senators Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, and Jay Rockefeller this week attempted to use their position of power to “persuade” American to allow the elections, even though American could suffer extended hardship. It’s clear from their actions that they, and others like them in Congress, would prefer unions be allowed to run roughshod over corporations, if only because union campaign money is so desirable in a vital election year.
The collection of Senators currently pressuring for elections cite the American workers’ right to unionize as their priority, but to call these elections “necessary” assumes that the unions have pure intentions. In reality, hotheaded emotional reactions have held up a deal between American and seven union groups, primarily because U.S. Airways has been masterful at obtaining union concessions in the face of American’s bankruptcy. Five of seven Transport Workers Union (TMU) groups voted in favor of the deal American’s unions struck with U.S. Airways, saving 1,300 jobs and implementing measures that would have eventually given them pay raises, along with various other benefits. But mechanics groups and others rejected the deal, either in hopes of fewer concessions, or simply out of anger.
Defying reason in uncertain economic times, the two remaining union groups voted to put more jobs at risk.
The unions’ misbehavior continues past individual votes, as they have already thrown in their lot with U.S. Airways while American Airlines continues to sit in Chapter 11. Before the restructuring process even neared completion, all three unions involved with American threw their support behind a merger, instead of restructuring, going as far as negotiating labor agreements with U.S. Airways, and assuming that American would simply die on the vine and then be forced to abide by their agreements. U.S. Airways is already using these same agreements to argue to American’s creditors that a merger is the only possible way out for American, leaving American to either make the unions a better offer or accept their fate.
And it gets worse.
Further flying in the face of logic is the fact that these unions completely overlook potential problems that come with integrating two different groups of pilots from two different unions. The probability of tensions rising is one that cannot be ignored, and given the history of lawsuits emerging from previous airline mergers stemming from just this issue, the risk is serious. Indeed, the only thing that remains certain throughout these negotiations is that resources will remain wasted in court, when unions could have helped American"s restructuring process and saved the jobs of hundreds of American workers.
And now, the unions are pushing for a mid-bankruptcy election, holding American hostage to union – not workers’ and certainly not American’s – interests. Industry experts have recently stepped up to question whether the merger should even happen, given how bad the deal seems to be for American.
But Congressional Democrats would rather side with unions in a knee-jerk play for their love than take a close look at a major industry merger.
Against the backdrop of a struggling economy that has the airline industry facing higher fuel prices and tough competition, the abject refusal of labor unions to take the intimidation card off the table is one that cannot go unchallenged. As unions walk out of negotiations and threaten strikes, more employees are suffering. American Airlines’ unions must reevaluate their priorities, and Democrats in the Senate would be wise to reconsider the political calculus of involving themselves in merger negotiations for the sake of political points.