Union organizers sued American Airlines, alleging that maintenance directors pressured workers to skimp on federal safety procedures and threatened discipline if they reported too many maintenance flaws.
The plaintiffs, Local 591 and several of its officials, said the actions violated the Railway Labor Act. They demanded punitive damages, an injunction to restrain airline managers from making further threats, as well as a trial by jury, according to the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Chicago.
Local 591 is a unit of the Transport Workers Union of America, which represents American’s mechanics.
The action could bring additional regulatory scrutiny into the safety protocols at American, the world’s largest airline by passenger traffic since it merged with US Airways in December 2013.
“We continually and consistently work with our regulators so that American’s maintenance programs, practices, procedures, and overall compliance and safety are second to none,” airline spokesman Casey Norton said in an emailed statement.
“Our communication with the (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration) is ongoing and frequent, and their oversight team has not alerted us to any current critical issues or concerns.”
The FAA, which is reviewing American Airlines’ progress in merging its operations with US Airways, said it is investigating the allegations.
According to the lawsuit, Chicago-based mechanics reported “conflicts with management” over repairing lightning strike damage on planes, hydraulic leaks, a contaminated wiring system and other items.
The lawsuit also singled out two regional maintenance directors not in corporate management roles.
When Dallas-based mechanics complained they had been assigned unfamiliar tasks that required extra time to perform, one director said they “should not worry about missing maintenance discrepancies ... since the FAA would not punish them,” according to the lawsuit.
Last September, a second director said the mechanics “had to strike a ‘balance’ between (regulatory) compliance and ‘performance’ because ‘I need my airplanes to go out in the morning,’” the filing said.
This same director said she would “deal” with the Chicago mechanics if they reported more maintenance flaws than she found acceptable, it added.
It was not immediately clear how much money was at stake in the lawsuit. (Reuters)