Pilots' union takes American to task New leaders criticize executives for not sharing recent profit

The national leadership of American Airlines Inc.'s pilots' union has sent a scathing letter to the airline's top executive, ripping the carrier for not letting employees share in American's improved fortunes.

The Sept. 18 letter to American chairman and chief executive Gerard Arpey also calls a joint management-employee program "a cruel hoax," criticizes the airline for its sickness policy for pilots and suggests that pilot suicides are up because of the airline's policies.

The letter from the Allied Pilots Association was signed by president Lloyd Hill, vice president Tom Westbrook and secretary-treasurer Bill Haug, all of whom were elected in a June vote that swept out the union's incumbents.

A flash point for the union has been that top executives and other key managers of American and parent AMR Corp. received about a quarter-billion dollars in AMR stock in 2006 and 2007 while employees have received only small pay raises since taking big cuts in pay and benefits in 2003.

"AMR executives love to listen to labor's ideas for solving 'their' problems but have nothing to say in response to our bitter complaints of being cut out of the rewards while management counts the gold," the union leaders say in their letter.

"Enjoy your blood money and your union-busting meetings," they add later. "We'll see you in court, in the newspapers and on the picket line."

Union spokesman Karl Schricker said the letter underscores the point that "the relationship is deteriorating" between the company and the pilots' union.

Asked about the issue of pilot suicides, Mr. Schricker said: "I don't know the statistics. I know that they have increased."

American spokeswoman Sue Gordon said the letter and its connection to American's executive compensation are part of the union's "corporate campaign" against American. At the airline's request, the two sides began bargaining for a new contract in September 2006, with little progress announced after more than a year.

"We see this is another step in their campaign and their negotiating strategy," Ms. Gordon said. "We believe the interests of the pilots are best served when key issues like this are discussed at the negotiating table."

On the other matters, Ms. Gordon defended American's enforcement of its sick-leave policy over the union's complaints, and she said the Joint Leadership Team, composed of management and employees, gives employees a voice in the company's operations. She said the question of suicides was a personnel matter.

The letter was first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on its Web pages Tuesday.