The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

American Airlines joins the stampede asking for concessions

Mar 17, 2003

American Airlines, the biggest airline in the world, is following right behind United Airlines in the dirty game of demanding concessions and threatening bankruptcy to get them. American says it needs 1.8 billion dollars a year in concessions from its unions. Otherwise, it claims it can't compete with USAir and United, who used bankruptcy to get big concessions from their workers.

American says it needs "labor cost savings" amounting to 620 million dollars a year from the 32,000 Transport Workers Union (TWU) members who are mechanics, baggage handlers and cabin crew. But then it explained it could save 447 million dollars by contracting out massive numbers of jobs.

In other words, American is holding outsourcing as a club over the workers' heads. With this club in hand, American presented the TWU with a long list of demands. They included massive wage cuts, eliminating differential pay for shift work, getting rid of the cap on part time work, gutting the pension plan, reducing health benefits, eliminating meal allowances for overtime work, etc.

In other words, United says: You can have the blood taken out of your wrist or your throat. But we want four pints of your blood. Make your choice.

This is no choice at all!

Reinforcing its demand for concessions, American has been making public moves toward bankruptcy. It hired Henry Miller of the investment banking company Greenhill & Co. He helped manage bankruptcies at Continental and Braniff airlines.

So far, the three unions at American, the TWU, the flight attendants and the pilots, have agreed to talk over the extent of concessions. They say their members will have the right to ratify any agreement.

Giving up concessions doesn't save jobs. Nor does it prevent the boss from coming back again asking for more concessions. The examples of United and USAir show just the opposite; when the unions accepted concessions, they encouraged the companies to carry out more layoffs and more demands for further concessions.

This drive for concessions will stop when the workers refuse these demands and back up their refusal with a fight. This is the only thing that billionaire bosses understand.