American Airlines Employees Considering Strike Option
March 15, 2010 -
Labor laws in the transportation industry are different than the rules
for other private sector workers and the right to strike is not
guaranteed. Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the law pertaining to
labor relations for workers in commercial aviation and railroads, unions
must request self-help before moving toward a strike.
After four years
of contract talks and little progress, the Transport Workers Union today
presented a letter to the National Mediation Board (NMB) requesting that
the union, which represents 28,000 workers at American Airlines and
American Eagle, be released from federal mediation. TWU’s action now
starts a process where the NMB will determine if the union will be
granted “self-help” -- essentially the right to strike.
have reached tentative agreements for some workers at American Eagle
and significant progress has been made in recent days for Fleet
Service workers at American, overall AMR has not sufficiently
demonstrated that they value the sacrifices and hard work of our
members,” said TWU Air Transport Division Director John M. Conley.
“While we have reached tentative agreements for some workers at American Eagle and significant progress has been made in recent days for Fleet Service workers at American, overall AMR has not sufficiently demonstrated that they value the sacrifices and hard work of our members,” said TWU Air Transport Division Director John M. Conley.“We have been at the bargaining table for years and will continue to work toward agreements, but it’s time that we moved the settlement process to the next step.” TWU represents 11 bargaining units at American and American Eagle.
Once a request is made, the NMB will notify the opposing party, in this
case, AMR, the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle,
of the request for “release.” Following notification, a comment period
from 10 days to two weeks will be declared for both parties.
The Board can propose arbitration, further mediation or suggest other
actions. If either AMR or TWU would reject an offer of arbitration, a
30-day countdown or cooling-off period is triggered. The union is
granted self-help at the end of 30 days -- unless President Obama
intercedes and declares a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB).
A Presidential Emergency Board can occur if the NMB "notifies" the President that in its "judgment" the dispute between a carrier and its employees cannot be adjusted and "threaten[s] substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree such as to deprive any section of the country of essential transportation service." The President may then, "in his discretion,” create a board to investigate and report on such dispute. The NMB submits a recommended list of potential neutrals to the President.
Emergency Board usually has 30 days to develop a proposed agreement and
present that agreement to the parties for consideration. After the PEB
delivers its proposed agreement, there is a further 30-day cooling off
period. Under the law, Congress also can create a settlement if both
sides reject the judgment of the PEB.
While TWU has filed for release, negotiations can continue. “We want equitable and rational agreements, we are prepared to negotiate, but we will not stand by as AMR executives are awarded large bonuses and our members are left with pennies. We will not move aimlessly, we will not go in reverse, as today’s filing demonstrates we plan to move forward,” said Conley.
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