Business: American Airlines harassing pilots for speaking out, pilots' union says

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By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer

MIAMI (April 2, 2002 7:45 p.m. EST) - The Allied Pilots Association said Tuesday that American Airlines is harassing pilots by taking disciplinary action against those who speak out on flight safety issues.

Union officials said American has given letters threatening termination to three pilots, taking issue with them wearing their uniform while off duty. All were wore their uniforms while speaking to the media about safety concerns.

Pilot Rich Rubin, a 22-year American Airlines veteran, said he received a letter after he gave a TV interview criticizing American chairman and chief executive Donald Carty for opposing a Federal Aviation Administration plan for stricter working-hour limits for pilots.

The two other pilots, Sam Mayer and Glenn Schafer, received letters after they spoke to the press about their concerns over the investigation into the safety of the A300 Airbus following the Nov. 11 crash of American Flight 587 in New York, Rubin said.

"We believe that American's focus on our uniforms is nothing more than a ruse, an attempt by management to intimidate our representatives and silence our safety concerns," said Rubin, who has been outspoken on pilot working conditions that lead to pilot fatigue.

American specifically allows its pilots to wear their uniform while on the job, traveling on American flights, attending funerals for American employees or other sanctioned company events.

Karen Watson, an American Airlines spokeswoman in Dallas, said the pilots' allegations of harassment are baseless.

"The only thing that we've addressed with them is the wearing of the uniform," she said. "There have also been pilots who have appeared in a media forum not in uniform. And those pilots have not received (disciplinary action)."

The company does have some rules on the books that address employees disparaging the company, Watson said, adding that the company counts on pilots to raise any safety issues.

Rubin said other American pilots who have spoken to the media while in uniform, including a pilot photographed in The Los Angeles Times, were not issued disciplinary letters.

Watson said American enforces its uniform policy when it discovers one of its 12,000 pilots or other employees violates the rules.

Rubin said the union has filed grievances with American in hopes of reversing the disciplinary action against the pilots.

While no pilots have been fired or suspended over the issue, the letters are the start of an official "paper trail" that could lead to the pilots being fired, he said.

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from this link


Crash Probe Prompts Rudder Design Probe  
Pilots Seek A300-600 Grounding


Captain Rich Rubin, 561-212-2167

Captain Sam Mayer, 203-981-9690

Gregg Overman, 817-302-2250

Director of Communications


Fort Worth, TX (April 2, 2002) - The Allied Pilots Association (APA) strongly believes that American Airlines (NYSE: AMR) is discriminating against and harassing pilots who are critical of American's commitment to safety. The issues include American's safety record, pilot fatigue, security, regulatory compliance, and the unexplained crash of an Airbus A300. Recently, several APA officials were subjected to "investigative hearings" convened by flight department managers who objected to the union representatives wearing of their pilot uniforms during media appearances.

"American's focus on our uniforms is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate our representatives and silence our safety concerns," said Captain John Darrah, APA President. "It will only serve to undermine prospects for an improved relationship with management."

American Airlines' pilots have a decades-long history of wearing their pilot uniforms in a wide variety of situations such as speaking with the news media, negotiating with management, lobbying elected officials, and attending other high-profile events such as weddings and funerals. In legal parlance, the effect of "past practice" overrides the applicability of any published rule unless APA and American Airlines agree to change the status quo during contract negotiations.

Captain Rich Rubin, a 22-year veteran of American Airlines and chairman of APA's Flight Time/Duty Time Committee, has been one of the airline's most vocal critics. Last summer, Captain Rubin filed a Whistleblower complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Labor (DOL). His complaint alleged that American was manipulating flight schedules to avoid an FAA requirement to add relief pilots on flights to Hawaii, and that he was receiving harassment and threats from American in retaliation for voicing concerns.

American Airlines agreed to a settlement on January 17, 2002 after the DOL concluded its investigation. The terms of the settlement required American to display copies of the FAA's Whistleblower Program poster on employee bulletin boards and to send Captain Rubin a letter that affirmed the rights of all of the carrier's pilots to voice safety concerns without repercussion.

On January 18, 2002, Captain Rubin and two other pilots protested outside the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington while the court considered an airline industry lawsuit to block strict rules on limiting a pilot's workday to 16 hours. Subsequently, Captain Rubin was instructed to attend an investigative hearing at the Miami flight office for appearing in uniform. He then received a formal notice that a Permanent Discussion Record marked DO NOT REMOVE was being placed in his personnel file.

Captain Sam Mayer is the Vice Chairman of the union's New York Domicile and Chairman of APA's Communications Committee. Last month Captain Mayer received a notice from American Airlines that a letter of discipline was being placed in his personnel file because he had appeared in uniform during a television interview about the crash of AA Flight 587.

"It is truly a sorry state of affairs when our pilots are being subject to discipline for speaking out about their very real safety concerns for our passengers and our crews," said Captain Mayer. "If American Airlines truly had the commitment to safety that they claim, their time would be better spent developing inspection methods for carbon fiber composites, instead of disciplining their pilots for appearing on television in uniform."

"Our voice concerning safety issues at American Airlines will not be silenced by discrimination, threats, or the unfair prosecution of our representatives," said Captain Darrah. "American Airlines should focus on fixing the problems, instead of attempting to silence the messengers."

a link to the contentious report (0.4mb in MS Word 2000 .doc Format)


The Converse View

Not to spark an argument regarding the ongoing debate between AA and the few airmen in question, but all carriers have a firm policy regarding statements from ANY employee to the general public, and particularly the press. This is based on sound judgment. Statements from employees, when in uniform, take on the posture of "officialdom" because of the way they are presented. That has been, and will continue to be a no no, grounds for dismissal, and one which I totally endorse. Statements to the press are the responsibility of management, and lie solely on their doorsteps. The pilots have an approved and agreed upon means of airing disagreements, and concerns, clearly spelled out, understood, and known by all, and reinforced by their collective bargaining contracts. Additional avenues are always open to discuss safety issues. No effort is ever made to restrict the free flow of information between the line group of airman, supervisors, and management. This situation with AA has most certainly followed this course. IMHO, the noise made by these few airman are away from good, and do nothing to promote the activity currently underway to determine the cause of their recent accident. As someone still close to the industry, I am most confident that if there were a fleet problem, the airplanes would be on the ground, not in the air. If the few who wish to express such big concern are truly that committed, they have another alternative....they can stay on the ground.

but incorporating what is transparently and truly a naive statement:

"As someone still close to the industry, I am most confident that if  there were a fleet problem, the airplanes would be on the ground, not  in the air."


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