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Thursday, July 02, 2009 2:38 AM

Aircraft repair jobs sold to foreign workers, resumes not important

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Here's something to think about when the unemployment numbers come out Thursday Morning: Aircraft repair jobs sold to foreign workers, resumes not important.

A News 8 investigation found that hundreds of aircraft mechanics have been brought into the United States to work at aircraft repair facilities.

Insiders say the companies that are importing the mechanics are so eager to save money, they’re overstating their qualifications. The result may be a threat to safety, abetted by lax enforcement of immigration law.

At daybreak any morning at San Antonio Aerospace, hundreds of workers amble through the gates for the day shift. They repair big jets like Airbuses, Boeing 757s and MD-11s.

Jada Williams used to work for one of the contracting companies, Aircraft Workers Worldwide (AWW), based in Daphne, Alabama. AWW supplied workers for two facilities, Mobile Aerospace Engineering (MAE) in Mobile, Alabama and San Antonio Aerospace, which are both controlled by ST Aerospace. San Antonio Aerospace is a division of ST Aerospace, the largest aircraft repair company in world.

"They’ve employed over 200 since I left,” said Williams, who said she was unfairly fired by the contractor last fall. "And I know we had over a hundred when I was in there, just in Mobile.”

San Antonio Aerospace uses several contracting companies to supply it with workers. It can be a high-profit business for the contractors. They can make $3 to $12 an hour for every worker hired by SAA, contractors say.

The drive for profits is so big, Williams and other insiders said, that the contractors often falsify the qualifications of the imports.

"We had two,” she said. “One of them was a female. She was about 16. It was a brother and a sister. One guy was a grocery bagger, one was a security guard in Puerto Rico. Their ages were between 18 and 22.”

Their ages are important because it takes years of experience or schooling to learn how to repair a big jet, experience they couldn’t have had.

One former SAA mechanic, who spent years learning his trade before being laid off, said foreign workers got their training on the job from the Americans they worked with.

"The more experienced mechanics, we would get paired up with either one or two of these guys,” he says. “And they would watch us for a month or so. And that’s how they would get their training.”

Williams is suing her former boss, Daniel Harding, for unlawful termination and racial discrimination. She has a computer full of company documents that were acquired accidentally when AWW got new computers for its office and gave her an old one. Spreadsheets, resumes and payrolls revealed many company practices, from interviews, to trips to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City for visas, charts marked the progress of Mexican workers to the United States. Documents also showed workers were charged $3,500 each by AWW to get into the United States.

Williams also has an e-mail trail from AWW president Harding to Moh Loong Loh, the President of San Antonio Aerospace. He described one candidate as having “ 25 percent English skills.”

Williams said in Mobile the numbers were even bigger. She said she picked up a group of 60 people from Puerto Rico at Mobile Regional Airport last February. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, its residents are U.S citizens. For the contractors, this is a bonus because they can pay the Puerto Ricans low wages without having to deal with foreign immigration requirements.
There is an interesting video in the above link that inquiring minds may wish to consider.

Putting profit over the safety of aircraft and passengers is unconscionable. If anyone at AWW or San Antonio Aerospace is in violation of immigration laws or falsifying documents, I hope they join Madoff for a nice stay in prison.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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