Déjà vu All Over Again

In September of 2003 the Tulsa AMFA Organizing Committee sponsored a full day of  organizing meetings at the Sheraton Hotel. At those meetings TWU AA members were told that AMFA never gave concessions, and provided full democracy and accountability. TWU members were also informed that AMFA had negotiated the best outsourcing and job protections in the industry at Northwest Airlines. At that time AMFA represented close to 20,000 mechanics at NWA, UAL, Horizon, ASA, Independence, Mesaba, and SWA.

Several TWU supporters who attended that day inquired as to why, if AMFA was so skilled at protecting against outsourcing and layoffs close to three thousand NWA mechanics had been furloughed while half of the carrier’s heavy checks had been outsourced. The response from AMFA’s lead officer at NWA was clear and unequivocal — those layoffs had been grieved, AMFA would win the arbitration’s, and all the furloughed mechanics would get their jobs back. At that point the Chair of Tulsa’s AMFA Organizing Committee told the members that once that happened he expected to receive signed AMFA cards from all of the mechanics at Tulsa.

The prediction made that day did not come to pass. After a series of failed arbitration’s less than 150 of the 3000 furloughed NWA mechanics were given their jobs back in the summer of 2004. And because the AMFA/NWA contract allowed so much maintenance work to be outsourced the number of working mechanics at NWA continued to diminish. A year later there were only 4400 active mechanic and related employees at NWA in comparison to the 9200 on the property when AMFA won bargaining rights. NWA had already managed to outsource the bulk of its heavy maintenance by the time of the 2005 strike and as soon as the strike was called the rest was outsourced along with all plant maintenance and cleaning. Few AMFA members ever returned to work at NWA or were given the right to come to work at Delta after it purchased NWA. After being decisively de-certified at UAL by members seeking to protect their work, AMFA now represents approximately 2500 members at
three carriers.

The AMFA organizers from Northwest who spoke to the members that day are no longer working in the industry, but the Chair of the Tulsa AMFA Organizing Committee– who is protected by the TWU/AA Agreement– is.  He is now a spokesman for AMP (“Don Rodgers, a mechanic at DFW and a member of AMP’s steering committee, said mechanics at the Tulsa maintenance base have turned in about half of the signed cards.” Tulsa World, 8/17/2010) and, as in 2003, is promising that if we just sign a card we will have a union more democratic than the TWU and a more militant one that will not give concessions, and will protect our work. But, the supposed Union he sponsors has not supplied our members with proof that they have filed the forms necessary to establish themselves as a Collective Bargaining Organization. They have no contract with any carrier, represent no-one, or have resources or working relations with other unions.

AMP obviously has no track record, but its creators and supporters do – they were almost all former AMFA organizers and every prediction or promise they made to Tulsa mechanics about AMFA’s performance turned out to be false.  Unfortunately, there is now an industry standard under which most heavy maintenance work is outsourced by all U.S. airlines except AA.  That standard was established in substantial part at AMFA represented carriers. At a time when all U.S. unions are fighting desperately to keep work from being outsourced outside this country AMFA signed on to two agreements which specifically allow outsourcing to foreign maintenance bases.

In 2003 AMFA and its Tulsa Organizing Committee told TWU members that AMFA supplied the best outsourcing and lay off protection in the industry. In 2010 the overwhelming majority of the mechanics AMFA represented in 2003 are no longer working under AMFA negotiated contracts. Yet, the same people who told our members to trust their judgment and put their faith in AMFA are now telling our members to trust their judgment and put our faith in AMP. Before putting your faith, much less your career, in the hands of the organizers of AMP think back to the promises made in 2003 and then compare them to the reality that came to be.


Sam Cirri, President