Aviation mechanics’ plane message to Trump: Keep our jobs safe
The protesters, who numbered over 200, chanted “Times Square Tower,” where negotiations where taking place.
Several thousand jet mechanics who work for American Airlines hope President Trump will swoop in and prevent their jobs from flying away.
At a Times Square rally on Wednesday, TWU leader John Samuelsen said he’d written to the country’s commander-in-chief to make him aware of the possible loss of thousands of U.S.-based jobs to company outsourcing, even though the airline denied that such a plan is in the works.
Backed by hundreds of cheering American Airlines employees — including more than a dozen of the company’s pilots — Samuelsen said it was a national security issue as much as an economic one.
“This is a total offshoring of U.S. jobs, blue-collar jobs and it will hurt American families,” Samuelsen said.
At the same time, the TWU leader said, it raised security concerns for planes outside the reach of federal inspectors and federal oversight.
“Unlike workers performing aviation maintenance on American soil, foreign-based airline workers are not subjected to extensive background checks, drug and alcohol testing, licensing requirements or ongoing FAA oversight and unannounced inspections,” Samuelsen wrote in his July letter to Trump.
The rally was one of several around the country Samuelsen and his team of TWU negotiators have attended as they try to bargain a contract with American Airlines.
The two sides are negotiating over a deal to define wages, health care and other benefits for thousands of American Airlines ground workers.
But the sticking point is American’s contract demands to move more maintenance jobs to overseas plants, which it aims to do through attrition and other means, said Samuelsen.
The company’s also looking for ways to outsource some of its work to third-party vendors based in the U.S. but who are non-union, according to TWU.
Since filing for bankruptcy in 2011, the airline has bounced back financially. It merged with US Airways in 2014 — absorbing some workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
In 2015 it turned its first profit since 2007, and claimed a spot on the S P 500.
Last month American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told reporters the company would never lose money again.
“We have an industry that’s going to be profitable in good times and bad,” he said.
Parker made the remarks as he detailed a plan to bump up revenue by $3.9 billion over the next four years through new deals with credit card companies and more seats on planes.
American Airlines TWU workers from JFK, LaGuardia and around the country protested Wednesday in Times Square.
A spokesman for the airline on Wednesday said TWU was misrepresenting the threats of outsourcing.
“In July, we presented them with a proposal that contains the highest pay rates in the industry and will ensure that American continues to do more fleet service work in-house than any other airline,” said American spokesman Matt Miller.
He denied that American Airlines’ contract demands involved offshoring jobs.
“Nothing the proposal that we put forth a couple months ago has any outsourcing component as it relates to that,” he said.
But Samuelsen said the company was playing semantics and trying to keep the public in the dark about the airline industry’s “dirty little secret.”
Many in the U.S. are unaware of just how many vital maintenance jobs have gone overseas to improve profitability for airlines, he said.
“Jet mechanics in the U.S. have to pass serious background checks, while there’s no verification in, say, South America,” he said. “For all we know an Al-Qaeda mechanic is working on our planes down there.”
American Airlines was adamant it was not making plans to move its maintenance to a new hangar it built in Brazil. But it did say it was looking to bring in a third-party vendor in the U.S. to take over some non-mechanical jobs, like de-icing planes.
The safety concerns were enough to bring out more than a dozen American Airline pilots, who are members of the Allied Pilots Association.
“We are supporting TWU 100%, we have attended all their rallies,” said spokesman James Talbott.
“We want them to get a contract, a fair one and we also want these safety concerns addressed. American pilots want to fly planes serviced in the U.S., by U.S. workers and under U.S. oversight,” he said.
First Capt. Susan Washington said she trusted the TWU workers “with her life and those of her passengers” every time she flew a plane.
“We rely on them. And we’re out here for them,” she said.