American Airlines has been dealing with a labor problem for as long as I can recall. The current crisis revolves around the mechanics union. There’s all the normal amount of unrest we see when a union-led group of airline employees is negotiating with management for a new contract. However, this one has gotten particularly acrimonious, with the head of the mechanics’ union blustering about a bloody battle with management. It appears some of his members have taken him literally.
Mechanic Arrested For Sabotaging Plane
The Miami Herald has reported that a mechanic purposefully sabotaged an airplane and was arrested for doing so:
According to the complaint filed Thursday, Alani glued the foam inside the tube leading from outside the plane to its air data module, a system that reports aircraft speed, pitch and other critical flight data. As a result, if the plane had taken off that day from MIA, the pilots would have had to operate the aircraft manually because the ADM system would not have received any computer data.
After his arrest Thursday, the affidavit says that Alani told federal air marshals assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that “his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.”
He said that his motive in tampering with the navigational system was because he was “upset” over stalled contract negotiations between the mechanics’ union and American Airlines that has raged for months — that “the dispute had affected him financially.”
He further said he only tampered with the plane’s air data module “in order to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work,” according to the affidavit.
The Final Two Pennies
This is an unprecedented escalation in the hostility between unions and airlines. It’s also a solid reminder that words have meaning. Maybe this employee would have committed this act of sabotage without the union president screaming about bloody battles on video. We’ll never know, because the rhetoric right now is so caustic.
I’m usually on the side of management when it comes to these sorts of disputes. However, this battle has plenty of combatants. Management at American Airlines cites the mechanics’ slowdown as a major factor in their inability to run a successful operation. Based on the data, they’re not wrong. But, it doesn’t seem that either side has made meaningful strides as of late to meet the other party in the middle.
Nobody in management or union leadership likely would have imagined an employee sabotaging an aircraft to further union efforts. We’ve now arrived at that unbelievable reality. It’s time for all vested parties to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith.
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