Could Strike If Impasse Declared
Pilots at American Airlines made
wage and benefit concessions to save the airline from bankruptcy in
2003. That five-year agreement became amendable on May 1 this year,
but talks on new terms have already been underway for two
Sensing a need for stronger tactics, the Allied Pilots
Association last summer elected a new slate of executives who
promised a harder line in dealing with American.
That harder line started with a September letter from new APA
President Lloyd Hill to American CEO Gerard Arpey, in which Lloyd
blasted Arpey's leadership, charged that airline pressure on
employees to work when sick had been responsible for pilot
suicides, and called executive bonuses, "blood money."
As ANN reported, Lloyd
promised Arpey, "We'll see you in court, in the newspapers, and on
the picket line."
The pilots made a starting proposal for a 50 percent pay raise,
to bring pay levels back to 1992 levels, adjusted for inflation,
with an immediate billion-dollar payment to bolster the pension
The airline's official response is no big surprise. The
Washington Post reports that American has rejected the terms,
saying they would add $3 billion to the company's annual operating
cost and, "are not in the best long-term interests of either our
company or our pilots."
The rejection offered no alternative terms, so the union is
demanding to know from management if that means the talks are at an
impasse. That determination is far more than semantics. The
contract containing the concessions did not expire on May 1, but
The distinction is that pilots still are under contract, and
can't legally strike unless an impasse is declared. If the two
sides can't agree they're at an impasse, the National Mediation
Board would have to decide. An impasse would clear the way for a
The timing is particularly ugly for American Airlines. The
airline lost $328 million in the first quarter as fuel prices
soared, and has since raised fees for almost every function tied to
flying on a commercial airliner today -- from checking a single
piece of luggage, to calling American's phone service to make a
American also faces upcoming contract talks with its flight
attendants and ground workers, who are no doubt watching closely to
see how the tough stand by pilots works out.