DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A video made public shows a heated confrontation between American Airlines’ mechanics and the president of the airline.
The exchange included the threat of a “vicious strike action” and comes amid a bitter contract dispute.
It happened Tuesday during a town hall meeting held by American Airlines with employees at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
The airline said it always records the meetings for all employees to watch internally.
The Transport Workers Union or TWU, which is among the unions representing mechanics, placed a portion of the meeting video on YouTube and its social media pages.
In the video provided by the TWU, President John Samuelson didn’t hold back when he confronted American Airlines President Robert Isom. “I stand here to tell you in front of this whole room, in front of everybody, anybody who’s listening, that you’re not going to get what you want.”
Samuelson said American made $3 billion last year off the backs of the mechanics, who have been working without a new contract for nearly three and a half years.
During the meeting, Samuelson told Isom, they’re fighting back with everything they’ve got against the airline’s effort to move some additional routine jet maintenance work out of the U.S. “If this erupts into the bloodiest, ugliest battle that the U.S. Labor movement ever saw, that’s what’s going to happen.”
An American spokesman said while there are disagreements, the airline isn’t seeking to increase the percentage of routine maintenance work done out of the U.S. and still has more maintenance done by its own mechanics than any other U.S. airline.
In a phone conversation Friday, Samuelson said that at one point during the meeting, he responded to a comment Isom made previously about a scenario called “self-help.”
It’s a scenario Samuelson said in which American could impose a new contract on mechanics — who could then decide not to comply with and go on strike — if the federal government allows it.
In the video, Samuelson told Isom, “If we ever get to a point where there’s self-help, we are going to engage in absolutely vicious strike action against American Airlines, to the likes of which you’ve never seen.”
The airline spokesman said the process is nowhere near that point, and that American is very focused on reaching a new deal and has offered leading pay and benefits.
During the meeting Tuesday, Isom had this to say:
“I will tell you this, that anybody that seeks to destroy American Airlines, that is not going to be productive, it just won’t. I’ll tell you what, the rhetoric that says we’re going to battle, we can’t live this way.”
Samuelson said Friday, every day he is preparing more and more for a strike.
American said it’s far from that point and remains focused on reaching a new agreement.
Earlier this week, American filed a lawsuit against its mechanics unions claiming they are conducting an “illegal slowdown campaign” that has caused more than 900 flights to be cancelled or delayed between February and the middle part of this month.
The unions have denied any wrongdoing.
No word yet when both sides will return to the bargaining table again.