FILE - This July 17, 2019, file photo shows American Airlines planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. American Airlines wants two labor unions to pay damages and the company’s attorney fees, saying they ignored a judge’s order to quickly end a work slowdown by mechanics. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

American Airlines seeks flight-cancellation cash from unions

August 14, 2019 - 2:59 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines wants two labor unions to pay damages and the company's attorney fees, saying they ignored a judge's order to quickly end a work slowdown by mechanics.

American hasn't put a dollar figure on its request but says the slowdown caused "enormous financial losses" from canceled flights.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge John McBryde ruled for American in its lawsuit against the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represent the mechanics.

American says workers took longer to fix planes and refused overtime to pressure the company during contract negotiations. The airline says the slowdown continued after the judge issued an injunction in mid-June, causing more than 950 flights to be canceled and another 280 to be delayed at least two hours.

The unions, which have been trying to get a new contract with American for more than three years, deny wrongdoing.

"The union has absolutely complied with Judge McBryde's orders. It would make no sense to not comply," said John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers. He was among the union leaders named by American in its request for damages.

Samuelsen vowed the unions "will achieve contract justice" for the airline employees.

Earlier this year, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines accused its mechanics of an illegal work slowdown and, like American, sued the union. But the dispute was settled when both sides agreed on a new contract that provided large pay increases for mechanics.

If American wins damages from the unions, it would not be a first for the Fort Worth-based airline. In 1999, a judge awarded American $45 million from its pilots' union over a sickout.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that a federal judge issued a temporary injunction against a work slowdown in June, not May.

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