A union representing thousands of workers at Southwest and Alaska airlines is asking its members not to fly American Airlines because of a court fight involving the world’s largest carrier and its mechanics.

“If you care about your families’ safety, do not put them on an American Airlines flight until this injunction is vacated,” Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association’s national director Bret Oestreich said in a statement over the weekend.

A federal judge issued a restraining order Friday barring American Airlines’ mechanics from interfering in aircraft operations. The airline sued its mechanics in May and accused them of engaging in an illegal work slowdown after contract negotiations stalled.

The restraining order means unions and their members cannot encourage or participate in activities like refusing to work overtime with the intention of keeping planes out of service.

Oestreich claims the airline is engaging in “efforts to suppress reports of aircraft damage.”

The Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent more than 31,000 employees at Fort Worth-based American, including about 12,450 mechanics. Union officials have denied encouraging a slowdown.

“With the issuance of this injunction, a mechanic who detects corrosion must not only be concerned about losing (his) job; he will now be concerned about facing fines or imprisonment,” Oestreich said.

The Dallas Morning News has reached out to American Airlines for comment.

Contract negotiations between American and its unionized mechanics came to a stop in April when neither party could agree on details of an updated work contract, despite assistance from federal mediators.

In the weeks since American filed the original lawsuit on May 20, the company has submitted court filings alleging the slowdown has worsened. More than 175,000 passengers have had travel plans disrupted by the slowdown and 722 flights have been canceled, according to American Airlines.

The union Oestreich leads found itself at the center of a similar situation just months ago when Southwest Airlines sought a court order to stop an alleged work slowdown by its own mechanics. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly claimed the slowdown was costing the company millions weekly.

Southwest and its mechanics agreed on a new work contract shortly after an exchange of lawsuits.

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©2019 The Dallas Morning News

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