For Immediate Release
SOUTHWEST MECHANICS CONDEMN AIRLINE FOR CONTINUING LITIGATION AGAINST ITS OWN EMPLOYEES DURING AN UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – April 13, 2020 – In a message to its members, dated April 13, 2020, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) condemned Southwest Airlines’ response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and sharply contrasted the carrier’s approach with that of American Airlines, which has curtailed litigation and engaged in cooperative efforts with their employees to meet the crisis.
Southwest has solicited a federally-financed bailout pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act, which prohibits airline recipients from involuntary furloughs or wage/benefit cuts through September 30, 2020 – a period well after the main impact of the pandemic is expected to subside.
Yet, at the same time Southwest requests billions in taxpayer assistance, it continues suing both AMFA and individual Southwest employees for damages in federal court. The litigation was filed in February 2017 in response to a decrease in the number of aircraft mechanics who volunteered for overtime work. At that time, the mechanics had been without a new collective bargaining agreement since August 2012. Southwest alleged that both AMFA and the individual defendants had failed to make “every reasonable effort” to convince mechanics to continue volunteering for overtime despite their frustration with contract negotiations that had been stalled for nearly five years.
On May 21, 2019, the AMFA-represented mechanics ratified a new contract that continues in effect until August 16, 2024. However, Southwest continued to sue AMFA and the named Southwest employees for injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment, and damages.
On March 25, 2020, the federal court, citing the parties’ conclusion of their contractual dispute, dismissed Southwest’s claims for injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment. Nevertheless, Southwest has persisted in its effort to obtain monetary damages from both AMFA and its own employees.
Southwest’s insistence on suing its own employees in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic contrasts sharply with the approach taken by American Airlines. Unlike Southwest, American successfully proved to the satisfaction of a federal court that its two mechanics unions – the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists – had engaged in a disruptive job action in violation of the Railway Labor Act. On August 12, 2019, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a permanent injunction enjoining the two unions from “any form of disruption” of American’s operations. When these disruptions allegedly continued, American filed a motion for monetary contempt sanctions. In view of the prior issuance of injunctive relief, American was well positioned to obtain a monetary judgment.
Nonetheless, on April 6, 2020, American moved the federal court to dissolve the injunction and cancel the contempt hearings. The next day, April 7, the federal court granted both motions. American, unlike Southwest, ceased unnecessary litigation against its mechanics as it, along with the entire industry, faces unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
AMFA has condemned Southwest’s approach as “un-American,” based on the airline’s failure to constructively respond to the nation’s crisis and its disregard of the positive example set by the nation’s largest air carrier. Southwest, through its CEO Gary Kelly, continues to tout the adage “we are all in this together,” however, those words ring hollow as Southwest continues federal litigation against its own employees in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. The leadership exhibited by American Airlines seems nowhere to be found at Southwest Airlines.
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association is a craft oriented, independent aviation union. AMFA represents licensed and unlicensed technicians and related employees actively involved in the aviation industry. These technician and related employees work directly on aircraft and/or components, support equipment, and facilities. AMFA is committed to elevating the professional standing of technicians and to achieving progressive improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions of the skilled craftsmen and women it represents. For more information about AMFA visit www.amfanational.org.