DALLAS (AP) — Several hundred workers who maintain American Airlines planes picketed Wednesday at the carrier’s home airport, calling for higher pay and an end to shifting maintenance work overseas.
The demonstration underscored conflict between the airlines, which struggled for years but are now earning huge profits, and their union work forces.
Helped by a bankruptcy restructuring, less competition, lower fuel prices and new leadership, American Airlines Group Inc. earned $2.7 billion last year.
“They are not going to hoard it all to themselves,” said John Samuelson, president of the Transport Workers Union. “The TWU work force is going to get their fair share in this contract negotiation.”
Samuelson’s union organized the midday rally at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which airport police estimated at 600 people. Another protest was planned for later in the day.
The transport union and another union have been negotiating with American for a new contract since late 2015. The transport union says workers need higher wages to make up for concessionary contracts that were approved when American was in financial distress in 2003 and 2012.
They also say that American is raising profits by moving some maintenance work from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to foreign shops where labor costs are lower. American has announced plans to build what the union says will be a $100 million maintenance facility in Brazil — American puts the cost at $50 million.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the airline gave the union a contract proposal last week that would protect current jobs even as it builds a two-airplane hangar in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Miller said the facility will only service large planes that need maintenance work between flights to and from the U.S. The work is already being done in Sao Paulo without a hangar by workers who are employed by American but are not members of the transport union, he said.
On the wage issue, Miller said that last year American gave pay raises outside of the normal bargaining process to its union employees, including increases of between 15 percent and 36 percent for many maintenance workers.
Samuelson, the union president, said that even with last year’s raises, ground workers at American will soon fall behind in wages because of recent contracts at other major airlines, and they already have inferior health and pension benefits.
David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter