July 28, 2017
In a memorandum entitled “Compliance Culture” dated July 7, 2017, Landon Nitschke and Trevor Stedke wrote that safety has always been the “top priority” of SWA maintenance operations. Notwithstanding this purported priority, the memorandum conceded that the FAA and Department of Labor have received an “uptick” in complaints from SWA Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) relating to management coercion, which the federal agencies have taken “very seriously.” The memorandum admonishes and underscores, “It is never appropriate for a [Tech Ops] leader to intimidate or pressure an employee.”
Every AMT worth his salt applies pressure to himself knowing the importance of returning planes to revenue service. But, as the Compliance Culture memorandum correctly indicates, returning planes to revenue in an airworthy condition must be the top priority. Wholly aside from SWA policy, every AMT has both the right and obligation to perform maintenance in accordance with the standards embodied in our maintenance manuals.
When we say “obligation,” we refer to Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) that mandate that all aircraft maintenance must be performed using the “methods, techniques, and practices” prescribed in applicable maintenance manuals. 14 CFR § 43.13(a). The FARs further stipulate that maintenance work be properly documented. 14 CFR § 121.701(a). AMTs who fail to comply with these federal mandates are subject to FAA enforcement action, including license revocation. Indeed, SWA has recently terminated LAX-based AMTs, in part, for allegedly failing to properly document maintenance.
When we say “right,” we refer to the AIR 21 whistleblower statute, which provides that it is a violation of federal law for an air carrier to take any adverse action against an employee in retaliation for reporting any non-compliance with a maintenance manual.
The Compliance Culture memorandum refers to AIR 21 complaints filed with the Occupational and Safety Health Administration in response to coercive action by SWA management. These complaints must be filed within ninety (90) days of the adverse action suffered by the AMT. It is a violation of AIR 21 for an air carrier to intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, backlist, discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee for bringing non-compliance issues to the Company’s attention.
If you have any questions about your rights under AIR 21, please contact your AMFA representative or review the information sources referenced below:
AIR 21- Whistleblower Statute: Overview Kitchen Table Conversation by Seham, Seham, Meltz & Peterson, LLP: https://youtu.be/xzRxwvA-dGk
The whistleblowers who exposed maintenance and inspection problems at Southwest Airlines told Congress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BqoZmqu97U