American Airlines Back at the Negotiating Table, Proving Pilots Know How to Use a Monkey Wrench

Let's count this out. First, American Airlines management threatens to haul the pilots union into court if the pilots don't stop finding ways to screw up the flight schedule.

See also: - American Airline Pilots' Slowdown Wins a Victory, Despite What You Read in the DMN

Second, seats on American Airlines airplanes start popping loose with passengers in them, flying around the cabins like rides at Six Flags but way less fun.

Third, management sticks with its screw-you posture on talks.

Fourth, on another American flight from Dallas passengers are told that instead of preparing to arrive in St. Louis as expected they should maybe prepare for their everlasting reward because the landing gear won't work. The gear works after all, but you know. Shit!

Finally and fifth, yesterday airline management suddenly decides to make nice. It suspends all of the new work rules that had the pilots so pissed off in the first place. And today we get this headline in The Dallas Morning (Company) News: "Union to resume negotiations with American Airlines." The story says, "... leaders of the pilots union have agreed to come back to the bargaining table."

The pilots, no fools, insist the schedule interruptions were not deliberate; they had nothing to do with the flying seats; the landing gear thing was real. So in this sudden resumption of talks, what do you and I think we are looking at? Serendipity?

The story here is not that the pilots union agreed to come back to the table, like they were naughty 3-year-olds who wouldn't sit in their chairs and eat their dinners. The story is that the company finally gave up on a strategy of using its political connections and a bunch of Republican judges to shaft the union.

Looks to me like management, in the face of absolute ruination, ducked its head, shoved its hands in its pockets and begged the union to come back for talks. I say again: It worked.

Now, if I were you, I would ask me this question: Jim, are you in favor of loosening the bolts on the airplane seats? Or how about the thing with the landing gear: Whatever was or was not going on there, Jim, do you really like a labor/management negotiating ploy that involves telling passengers they're all gonna die? How would you have felt had you been on that plane with your family?

Bad. I would feel bad. I would not be happy. I would be unhappy with the pilots, management, the maintenance crews, whoever was responsible. And no matter what happens from here on out, I am never flying anywhere on any airline without kicking my seat several times before I get in it.

But look, this is where things wind up if you keep stacking the deck in favor of management. If all of the labor law and the bankruptcy law and the case law winds up stacked against workers and in favor of management, then there's only one thing left for labor to use. Monkey wrench law.

Why do we think we ever got union protection law in this country in the first place? If labor gets pushed to the absolute brink and is allowed no reasonable quarter, then really bad things happen. People don't just dry up and blow away. Drying up and blowing away is not an American tradition, and I am using the national term, not the name of the airline.

If American Airlines management sits down at the table and bargains in good faith with the pilots today, it will have everything to do with the flight delays, the flying seats, the everlasting reward and all the rest of it. It will happen because management finally grew desperate to find some way to make it all stop.

Yeah, it has been ugly. No question. But in this battle we can look ahead and see what the whole country faces if we don't find some way to reverse the fascist tilt distorting our entire economy and society. The lesson of our national history is that we can do this nice or we can do it ugly. But we are going to do it. In the end we should thank the pilots for reminding us how this really works.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze