February 16, 2017
Yesterday Southwest Airlines filed a lawsuit against AMFA National, AMFA Local 11, and several individual AMFA officers and contract negotiators. The lawsuit alleges that AMFA-represented mechanics initiated an overtime boycott and that AMFA and the other defendants failed to make “every reasonable effort” to prevent the boycott and/or bring it to an end. As a remedy, SWA is seeking wide-ranging injunctive relief that would implement judicial oversight of how you perform your maintenance work.
During the pendency of the Section 6 negotiating process, both the carrier and union, and its members, are required to maintain the status quo. This obligation requires the carrier to bargain in good faith and refrain from unilaterally changing working conditions. Because SWA has not lived up to this obligation, AMFA filed a lawsuit in a federal court Arizona several weeks ago.
The status quo obligation requires the union and its members to refrain from strikes and job actions. Even where a union has not initiated a job action, it can be held responsible for not making “every reasonable effort” to prevent and terminate the action.
Historically, carriers have had a high success rate in obtaining federal court injunctions in response to alleged overtime boycotts. Examples include the Delta pilots, the US Airways pilots, the American pilots, and the Machinists at United. Once an injunction has issued, those enjoined may be subject to contempt of court sanctions for future violations. In the American pilot case, the same federal district court in which SWA filed its action imposed compensatory damages of $45.5 million on the union defendants.
SWA appears to be exploiting the alleged overtime boycott as the thin edge of the wedge. The carrier does not simply seek an injunction enjoining overtime-related job actions, but prohibiting “any disruption, curtailment or restriction of Southwest’s normal airline operations….” Carriers have used such broad language in the past to inhibit technicians from reporting maintenance discrepancies. The ensuing result is that technicians, normally guided by their conscience and the Federal Aviation Regulations, must perform their work under the cloud of judicial scrutiny.
AMFA has always aggressively represented its members. We compelled SWA to implement the Fourth Line of heavy maintenance when the carrier reneged on our agreement. We arbitrated the inspector backfill issue and obtained a multi-million dollar award. We are currently suing SWA in federal court for its failure to negotiate in good faith and respect our contractual rights. No one should doubt our dedication to the collective interest because we are a democratic, grass roots association. We are already actively engaged with legal to address the Company’s unilateral outsourcing of your protected C-Check work in the past few days. Moreover, the Company continues to mislead you by indicating there is a comprehensive proposal that we should allow you to vote on. This is false – the Company has never provided us with a comprehensive proposal that could even be sent for ratification.
That being said, we now advise you that any concerted (organized) withholding of overtime undermines the interests of our group as a whole. We direct our members to cease all unlawful job actions. We direct each AMFA local in the SWA system to post this message immediately.
On Behalf of the NEC,