The pilots union at American Airlines has censured its two top officers, a rare public dispute that comes in the middle of negotiations over a new contract.
The resolution censured Allied Pilots Association President Captain Lloyd Hill and Vice President Captain Tom Westbrook for "frequently failing to adhere to the policies, directives, and resolutions of the Board of Directors."
Union spokesman and pilot Sam Mayer said the union wasn't characterizing the dispute beyond the wording in the resolution.
Westbrook said the board was not specific about its complaints, but that one issue was probably a recent decision to declare that if federal mediators allow it, the union might conduct job actions but would stop short of a strike as it tries to close the deal on a new contract with American.
Taking a strike off the table would be an unusual approach, and it would not be surprising if it riled more hard-line union members.
Westbrook and Hill were elected by American pilots nationwide. The 18-member council that censured them has two members elected at each of American's nine pilot bases, so they have slightly different constituencies.
"Bottom line, the Board and National Officer relationship has been strained. While the needs and goals of the membership have been met, the process can be done in a much better way," Jason Boles, chairman of the San Francisco-based pilots, wrote in an update on Friday. Boles was one of four directors on the 18-member board who voted against the censure on Thursday.
Director Stephen Bacon wrote to the Boston pilots he represents that the problem was that the board is supposed to set policy and the president and vice president are supposed to carry it out.
"It was felt that that was not being accomplished, or that the letter of the directive was being carried out, but not always the spirit," he wrote. He called the censure "only a mid course adjustment, and a rededication to our goals."
American Capt. Glenn Schafer and First Officer Phil Plummer, who represent pilots based at New York-LaGuardia, wrote that the board "has attempted to privately resolve these issues on multiple occasions" without success. "It is better to handle these issues now, then to have them come to a head later, when the pressure will be magnified," they wrote.
The Allied Pilots Association has been negotiating changes to its 2003 contract with American for 30 months. In 2007 the union asked for pay raises of more than 50 percent to return their pay to 1992 levels. The company has said that's not affordable.
Hill said they've tried their best to follow the board's wishes.
"There are going to be times when you have differences of opinion about how to go, and I would say that what happened yesterday was just a byproduct of the democratic environment," he said.
AMR shares fell 18 cents, or 5.8 percent, to close at $2.90.