Amts Stand Together

Ken MacTiernan

Aug 12, 2003
San Diego CA
When NWA AMTs tried to negotiate better wages and benefits their union at the time , the iam, dragged their feet and took four years to come up with a paltry excuse of a contract. The NWA AMTs democratically elected a different union to replace the iam. They elected AMFA. When AMFA came in at NWA all officials were elected by the membership. The membership then told their elected officials they wanted fair compensation for their skills. NWA fought tooth and nail against AMFA and their members. The membership were willing to be lead by an organization that had the MEMBERSHIP'S best interests at stake. Not the other way around.

NWA management got the National Mediation Board involved in their negotiations with AMFA. At this time even the NMB was aggressive against AMFA. But AMFA and their members stood for what they believed in. And that was simply fair wages for what a skilled, professional Aircraft Maintenance Technician offered. A safe, airworthy aircraft. When NWA's foot dragging didn't improve things George W. Bush stuck his nose into the collective bargaining agreement process and created a Presidential Emergency Board. Again, AMFA listened to their members and stood their ground. AMFA picketed the White House and informational pickets were held across the country. Some pickets were even created by non-NWA AMTs in support of their fellow union craftsmen and women.

In the end AMFA stood tall and was able to negotiate a much better increase in pay and benefits then the iam was able to. Under the iam NWA could farm out 100% of their work. AMFA capped it. AMFA created a program where non-A&Ps could be reimbursed some expenses for their schooling to become A&Ps. AMFA provided a voice for our profession. Their belief is democracy & accountability in craft unionism.

Now most people know what happened already. But most don't know that in SAN I and another AMT organized an informational picket to inform the public as to what was happening in our profession when NWA AMTs were fighting. Not only fighting for themselves but for ALL AMTs! Jim Little, the head of the twu atd at the time told me, "That's NOT our fight." Jim Little even told me that because of what was going on at NWA that the NMB told AA they had better negotiate fairly, or in Jim's exact words he said the NMB read AA the riot act. I was told by LAX twu local officials that we could damage our contract negotiations that were going on at that time. I was also informed that the leaflet that was going to be distributed could be held against us because it used the names of other airlines. I could not believe what I was hearing! Our profession was under attack by greedy airline management, anti-labor government officials and self-serving industrial unionism.

Now back then I was not truly aware of the twu's basic union beliefs. And that is dues come before the membership's needs. After all, Jim Little and the other twu officials I talked to must know what they were talking about... right? After I hung up the phone with these twu officials I, and the other AMT that helped plan the SAN informational picket, had a choice to make. Either cancel our picket or take the chance that what we were told as far as possible retribution from AA as being true. This other AMT and myself felt that what we were just told by whom we thought were leaders was actually fear tactics. We were willing to do whatever it took to fight for our craft and profession. The days of industrial unionism in the airlines where one airline got knocked around and the other industrial unions stood back and didn't help were over! But we did not feel like possibly jeopardizing other AMTs at SAN for our actions. So the SAN informational picket was cancelled and I and my fellow AMT brother drove from SAN to LAX because after making a call to friends up in LAX I was told their picket was still a go.

Driving up to LAX we talked about what Jim Little and the other LAX twu local officials told us. Why did they not want to help our fellow AMTs at NWA? Why was it their fight only? After all, what happens to one airline work group will eventually happen to other airline work groups. (Just look at what is happening today!) How could we possibly negatively effect our (AA/twu) contract negotiations by simply handing out leaflets that told the public the "other" side of the airline negotiations, meaning the skilled, professional craftsmen's side of the story. After all, all you ever saw in the past was some airline "spokesperson" claiming that labor was being unreasonable and greedy. Right? Where were the iam, twu, ibt spokespeople speaking to the media? Where were all the news articles explaining the AMT's side? Neither myself or my fellow AMT knew how many people would attend this informational picket in LAX. Would it be a small whimper of a few voices? Or would it be a example of skilled professionals trying to educate the public as to the real truth regarding contract negotiations in the airlines?

When we arrived in LAX there were a small handful of AMTs gathered at the International Terminal. Most everyone wore their AA uniform. I had hoped for a larger assembly of AMTs but thought that since we just got there more would show up. Those that were there formed a line that covered a few of the International Terminal's doorways. We handed out pamphlets to passengers by simply asking, "Excuse me Miss/Sir, would you like something to read on your flight?". Most, if not all passengers took a pamphlet AND KEPT IT! These people didn't read it and throw it away, sure some did, but the majority were interested in what we had to say! For the few passengers that refused our offer of a pamphlet we simply replied, "Have a safe flight Miss/Sir.". The entire informational picket was professional but it was also eye-opening. Because before I even noticed there were more AMTs present. There were AMTs from other airlines as well. Truthfully I did not know what to expect to take place in LAX on that day. Several hundred AMTs showed up to have their voices heard. It was one of the proudest days I have had as an AMT. Our proud craft had finally realized that what the twu, ibt and iam stood for was NOT what was important to the AMT's proud profession but what was important to the twu, ibt and iam.

AMFA was willing to lead their members for what they felt they deserved and NON-AMFA members wanted the same thing but could not have it. Future informational pickets were held. Including ones in SAN. The media carried our story to the public. But NO WHERE was the twu, ibt or iam voicing their support for our proud craft! It was only AMFA. But that was all that was needed. I flew to Washington to picket the White House to tell the President that he should stay the Hell out of the collective bargaining process. This was another time that I was proud to be an AMT. Seeing all the AMTs that picketed the White House AND the support from the public. Especially people from other countries where they would NEVER dream of doing what we were doing. Bush claimed that if NWA AMTs struck it would harm the country. I say, "BULLSHIT!". What would hurt the country is the airline's concerted attack on our pay and benefits all the while the industrial unions just roll over and accept our declining livelihoods.

The point I am trying to make with this long post is that AMFA is willing to lead. AMFA is democratic and listens to their memberships. The AMT craft & profession has for too long been a sleeping giant. It is time that this giant awakens and fights for what is right. As my friend and fellow AMT that drove to LAX with me said, "Fight the good fight." The time has come again where we need, no WE MUST, stand together as one group. Because if we do not stand together we will most surely fall seperately. Sincerely, Ken MacTiernan AA AMT SAN

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, March 20, 2005 5:55 AM
Subject: we can stand by and watch NWA AMT's fight for the industry or support a fight!

It is not about which union is standing up for our class and craft, It is supporting other fellow mechanics in a fight to stop the destruction of our careers and families. AMFA is taking on northwest airlines and the government again (toe to toe) just as they did in 1999 for their contract we all enjoyed! We can watch or we can get involved in this bitter battle. Contact AMFA and see what we all can do to help in this fight. This fight crosses all union lines and should be fought as such.

NWA mechanics union faces difficult talks
Liz Fedor, Star Tribune
March 18, 2005 AMFA0318

Three years ago, the national director of an airline mechanics union vowed, "We don't give concessions. Never have."

Now O.V. Delle-Femine's pledge is being tested at bankrupt United Airlines and at Eagan-based Northwest, which has been losing money since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Airlines' financial health and the power of labor unions have been badly bruised since 9/11.

Instead of pushing for industry-leading compensation, many union negotiators now are forced to try to minimize damage to workers at bargaining tables.

This winter, negotiators for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) at United presented their members with a tentative agreement that included 5 percent pay cuts. It was rejected by the rank and file in January, but a bankruptcy judge quickly imposed a 10 percent pay cut on AMFA mechanics and cleaners.

At Northwest, executives are seeking labor savings of at least $950 million a year. Management started calling for cutbacks in early 2003, but now it is attempting to accelerate talks with its mechanics, flight attendants and ground workers.

Northwest has cut about 40 percent of AMFA jobs in the past four years and said Wednesday that up to 930 more job cuts are expected in the Twin Cities this year.

It is a tough bargaining climate for AMFA leaders at Northwest. Just four years ago, they won a new contract that included 24 percent pay increases. The agreement was 4½ years in the making, and the mechanics changed unions before sealing the deal. Northwest mechanics broke from the larger International Association of Machinists (IAM) and staked their financial futures with AMFA, which campaigned on a platform of serving the needs of mechanics vs. a wide range of work groups represented by the IAM.

The new union has cultivated an aggressive and feisty image. It sued Northwest in federal court because the airline refused to allow rank-and-file members to observe negotiations. And Delle-Femine recently criticized the National Mediation Board for acceding to Northwest's request to assign a mediator to the talks shortly after they began.

But the AMFA representatives who are sitting across the table from Northwest management are taking a businesslike approach to the talks.

They are avoiding charged language that could stir the emotions of their members and are focusing on the tough task that faces them.

"We'll negotiate the best contract that we can get for our membership," said Jeff Mathews, Northwest AMFA contract coordinator.

For its part, Northwest management repeatedly points to falling wages at United and emphasizes that United is Northwest's top competitor. In the February employee newsletter, Northwest said that its mechanics are currently paid 24.3 percent more than United's mechanics.

"United will have a distinct competitive advantage now held by most low-cost airlines. A lower labor cost structure will allow United to lower its airfares and still regain profitability," Northwest said in its newsletter.

"Northwest has never told us that they want labor cost restructuring or pay cuts to help it survive," Mathews said Thursday. "They want pay cuts to have parity" with United and some low-cost carriers.

"They don't want to go bankrupt," he said, but "they want bankruptcy-type concessions."

Neither Mathews nor Jim Young, Region 2 AMFA director, are making big promises or sweeping statements about negotiations. They also said they will not let the pending job cuts affect their work at the bargaining table.

"What direction those negotiations may go could hinge upon the company's business plan," Young said. "We'll identify a strategy once we have a chance to see and analyze that business plan."

Northwest CEO Doug Steenland is reviewing the labor cost-cutting target, which could be raised beyond the $950 million annual figure the company has been citing since early 2003. Pay cuts for pilots and salaried workers went into effect last December.

AMFA now is in the spotlight and the union and management are signaling that they are getting ready for a showdown.

AMFA Local 33, based in Bloomington, has announced that it's formed a Strike Preparedness Committee. The group's charge: Prepare members for the logistics of carrying out a strike, if needed.

On Monday, Mathews informed AMFA members that management is making preparations as well. He noted there has been increased training for Northwest managers in how to taxi an airplane from a gate to a maintenance hangar. He reported that managers also are getting up to speed on paperwork that must be completed to declare an airplane airworthy. Finally, he said, a large number of manager positions that were open are being filled.

Northwest and AMFA are in the early weeks of mediated negotiations, so talk of a strike is premature. Robert Mann, an airline consultant from New York, said that a strike would be exceedingly "counterproductive" in the current financial climate. However, he said, it's understandable that both parties are attempting to showcase their bargaining power in important negotiations.

"Time is of the essence," Mann said. "All of these airlines have exactly what is left of this business cycle to both get a cost structure that works in place and have that cost structure start to generate cash flows" that move the carriers back toward profitability.

"We recognize the industry is undergoing a good deal of turmoil, although much of it is due to poor decisions made by the airlines," AMFA's Young said. Nevertheless, he said, "We will keep our emotions in check and continue to meet with Northwest in order to negotiate the best contract possible."

NWA Layoff Plans Worry Mechanics, Capitol

VIDEO: Tony Berlin reports.

Mar 17, 2005 5:53 pm US/Central
(WCCO) Some Northwest Airlines employees are concerned the airline's upcoming cuts could lead to safety problems.

Northwest is taking 30 planes out of service, and an estimated 900 technicians could lose their jobs by year's end. The airline said fuel prices are partly to blame.

Northwest mechanics knew the cuts were coming, but that didn't soften the blow. The mechanics' union learned Thursday there would be 156 additional cuts made by May.

Most of the maintenance jobs are moving out of state to as far away as South America and China to keep labor costs low, the mechanics' union said. The union believes travelers should have a reason to be concerned.

"You're asking for disaster," union president Ted Ludwig said. "The mechanics feel the more the outsourcing increases, the greater the chance there's going to be a fatal crash."

Northwest said in a statement, "With strict oversight and quality measures in place and constant monitoring, quality and safety are ensured."

"They're all going to this outsourcing, and it is dangerous," Ludwig said.

Airline analysts such as Terry Trippler believe airlines will only be helped in the long run if they make tough decisions, such as cutting and outsourcing jobs, right now.

"I still believe after this correction -- and I call it a major correction that all the airlines are going through -- in the end, Northwest Airlines will be the one standing tall," Trippler said.

The layoffs come as Northwest pushes for a multimillion-dollar expansion at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Senate Democrats revived a bill to place a moratorium on airport expansion on Thursday, and they want Northwest to appear in committee to explain why the 900 layoffs are necessary, WCCO-TV political reporter Pat Kessler said.

In January, hundreds of Northwest mechanics went to the Capitol with predictions the airline would outsource their jobs and lay them off.

Democrats are prepared to invite Northwest CEO Douglas Steenland to testify, Kessler said, and the committee may take the rare step of issuing a subpoena to ensure Steenland appears.