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The Strike of American Airlines Pilots



 

In September 2012, American Airlines’ pilots threatened to strike because of the lack of a viable contract between their union and the company's management. Rather than to go on strike, the pilots utilized disruptive tactics to draw attention to their complaints.

The source of conflict was the fact that American Airlines, which was the bankrupt carrier by that time, had imposed cutting wages and benefits on pilots in their contracts with the company. In November 2011, American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection. The main reason for that were labor costs reductions after which the relations between the management and employees had deteriorated rapidly. In April 2011, all American Airlines unions, including mechanics and flight attendants, publicly supported merging with US Airways (LCC) to show that they do not like company’s management. Two of three unions made an agreement with the management trying to avoid having benefits cut and wages reduced. Unions had expected that the pilots would follow their example; however, they refused the deal in September 2012.

The pilots decided to express their complaints not in going on the streets and picketing, but rather with their demands in front of the media. The maintenance issues resulting from last-minute plane inspections which they ordered forced flight delays and cancellations in the following month.

When the news media cover labor, they do not do that in terms with neutral facts by reflecting true stories about employees’ issues, which appear as a result of poor working conditions set by the management of the company. The way in which that story is told to the audience is very important as it allows community to understand the problem.

The 2012 American Airlines pilots’ impendence to strike is not the first labor protest in the history of that company. In 1993, American Airlines flight attendants went on five-day strike. The main reason of that work stoppage was caused by the contract disagreements. The management of the company earlier inflicted a contract that gave flight attendants a salary increase, but cut off employees’ health insurance. Moreover, according to the rules provided in contract, they could be made work more for their pay and being put on call on a wider basis. Both events caused flight delays that turned into a large-scale disaster after all. To understand better the following strike and possible ways of solving that issue, it is useful to apply five dominant frames of labor news.

Both events covered by media caused flight delays for many people upsetting their plans and attracted attention of the whole world society. The following disruption put the company's reliability at risk. One of the labor frames states that consumer is a king; however, the carrier did not care about them that made him able to use his own clients as milking cows.

 The process of production is none of the public's business. The 1993 strike made the President interfere into their issue, which caused arguments in management of the company. It, in turn, led to solving the problem. The latest strike attracted the public attention and left many passengers without Thanksgiving Day celebration.

As the economy is driven by great business and entrepreneurs, American Airlines does not really care about their staff; this tendency is obvious in both strikes. The work is a meritocracy stating that every workaholic deserves to be rewarded by the management; however, American Airlines used a strategy of a workforce replacement while the strikers are off work.

Collective action is bad. Unions are formed with the common idea and are trying to help themselves as it was in 1993 when the flight attendants strike was supported by other unions that helped to solve the issue in the shortest time frame.

The 2012 American Airline pilots' strike was not made public, but rather happening within a closed circle of pilots. The pilots were sabotaging the flights by outlining minor problems like dull reading lights, broken coffee pots and so on.

Every strike's purpose is to solve problems between the management and the employees, improve the working conditions, and make sure that both parties come to an agreement, which is always achieved as the final result.

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