The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has ceased its year-long campaign to bring American Airlines mechanics and other employees into the union fold.
Teamster officials tie the decision to the Department of Justice’s recent announcement that it will not approve the proposed merger between American and US Airways.
“The Teamsters union has determined that the recent announcement… places the workers at American Airlines in significant turmoil. American Airlines’ emergence from bankruptcy has been cast into doubt, and the union has determined that the continued conflict between labor organizations is not in the best interest of the workers,” Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell said in a statement. “This is not a time for workers to fight among themselves.”
The Teamsters were taking on the Transport Workers Union, which had been representing the American workers. TWU officials viewed the Teamsters’ actions as a poaching attack.
“We’re pleased that the Teamsters realized that this raid of TWU members at American Airlines was both wasteful and divisive,” TWU President James C. Little said in a statement. “When the Teamsters challenged our union, it brought TWU members together. Today, we’re better prepared to address the concerns of workers at American, who have been through a difficult bankruptcy and to make sure they have the best possible representation on the job.”
The main concern of American workers, according to the TWU, is the DOJ’s “unjustified legal challenge” to the merger. The union intends to file an amicus brief in opposition to the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit; circulate petitions supporting the merger to the department and other government entities; and help organize local unions.
The Teamster’s most recent bid focused on American workers, but the Teamsters had been pushing to represent US Airways employees as well. That bid fell through recently, with the majority of US Airways workers voting to be represented by the International Machinists Union, according to reports.
The Machinists Union released a statement August 15, castigating US Airways for focusing on the intended merger instead of sewing up a contract with IAM members. The government’s decision to fight the deal only complicates the issue, the union said.
“We warned US Airways months ago against focusing exclusively on a possible merger instead of negotiating new contracts with IAM members,” IAM District 141 President Rich Delaney said in a statement. “If US Airways can’t get serious, then the National Mediation Board should release us.”
The TWU also had harsh words for the Teamsters, which it saw as creating an unnecessary distraction for US Airways workers at a sensitive time.
“It’s no surprise that a majority of mechanics at US Airways voted to stick with the IAM,” the TWU’s Garry Drummond said in a statement. “The Teamsters have done a terrible job representing airline workers, sitting on their hands while jobs are outsourced to China. Their union is losing members, their pension funds are shaky, and it’s the only union in America that’s been under government supervision for more than 20 years due to ongoing charges." - Jon Ross