airplane American Airlines jet at Miami International Airport. Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM

American Airlines has sued three mechanics unions, alleging they violated the law by urging aircraft mechanics to act together to cancel and delay flights that impacted 125,000 people.

American is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the union’s “illegal slowdown,” noting that the very busy “summer flying season” begins May 23, and the negative impact of the slowdown will increase dramatically.

American, based in Fort Worth, claimed that the Transport Workers Union of America AFL-CIO, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and Airline Mechanic and Related Employee Association TWU/IAM, its officers and members purposely slowed down mechanics’ work because they wanted leverage in negotiations. It laid out the allegations in a May 20 complaint for injunctive relief in American Airlines v. Transport Workers Union of America.

The suit states American and the union have been in negotiations since December 2015 to amend their collective bargaining agreement. They conducted their last mediation session on April 25 but didn’t reach an agreement.

The defendants issued a joint statement that said it’s unfortunate the airline stopped negotiating and went to federal court.

“The airline is frustrated with the association for refusing to allow more of our maintenance and repair work to be outsourced to South America, China and Europe. We are also standing strong against cuts to our medical benefits and retirement security. Our members value American Airlines fliers and work hard every day to ensure they have the best experience possible,” the statement said.

American’s complaint said that between Feb. 4 and May 13, the union and its members engaged in a campaign that canceled 644 flights, caused 270 maintenance delays and disrupted travel for more than 125,000 people. The slowdown intensified in recent weeks, and American estimates it will disrupt summer travel for 3,400 people per day if it continues.

American alleged the union violated the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits airline workers from acting together to disrupt operations in order to gain an advantage in contract negotiations.

The complaint alleged that the union sent its members a series of communications since February that called on airline mechanics to fight for a new contract and get the company’s attention by engaging in the slow down.

“This illegal conduct includes a concerted change of behavior by failing to close out maintenance items and complete maintenance checks, refusing to accept overtime, refusing to accept field trips, and generally slowing down and refusing to do anything more than the bare minimum required by the [collective bargaining agreement] or federal regulations,” the complaint alleged.

Dee Kelly Jr., partner in Kelly Hart & Hallman in Fort Worth, who represents American, declined to comment. No one from American’s press office immediately returned an email seeking comment.

Earlier this month, Delta Airlines was lambasted on social media for a supposed union-busting campaign meant to encourage its workers not to unionize. The campaign included signs urging workers not to pay $700 per year for union membership, and instead use that money for a video game system or to attend sports games.

View Delta’s signs:


Read American Airlines’ complaint.