The merger between American Airlines and US Airways hasn't even been completed yet and unions at the two carriers are already squabbling.
Association of Professional Flight Attendants president Laura Glading revealed the discord in an open letter she sent on Wednesday to Roger Holmin, the president of US Airways' flight attendant union.
"No sooner had the ink dried on the Justice Department’s settlement than AFA-CWA ramped up the kind of divisive rhetoric and tactics that are crippling the labor movement," Glading said in the letter.
Glading said she received a letter from Holmin last Friday that included an ultimatum that APFA consider a new proposal from Holmin's Association of Flight Attendants instead of an integration proposal the two sides have been working on for months.
"We have accommodated all of AFA’s challenging internal politics. We tolerated a 10-week pause in our discussions while you tried to oust your International President. We even looked the other way as AFA operatives began to raid us and mislead our membership with a coordinated propaganda campaign. Personally, I cannot count how many attacks on my character – including some from the AFA-CWA International Vice President – I have ignored. Rather than engage in this sideshow, we continued to work towards an agreement because we knew it was in the best interest of the Flight Attendants," Glading wrote.
In a negotiations update sent to AFA members on Wednesday, the union refuted the claim that it was running a campaign of misinformation against Glading and the APFA.
"US Airways management negotiated a process with APFA for reaching a single agreement which shut out the input and experiences of 8000 US Airways Flight Attendants. This exclusionary process not only squanders an opportunity to gain an industry-leading contract, but wipes out solid contract language which governs our day-to-day working lives now and for years to come. That’s why AFA is proposing a merger of our two unions and a jointly-negotiated process for reaching a single agreement," the update said.
Keep reading for the full letter from Glading and the negotiations update sent to AFA members on Wednesday.
November 20, 2013
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
501 Third Street, NW, 10th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20001
Last year, US Airways announced its intention to merge with American. For the better part of two years, APFA has worked tirelessly to make this merger happen. Flight Attendants can triumph at long last. This should be a time for celebration, renewed cooperation, and unity. But no sooner had the ink dried on the Justice Department’s settlement than AFA-CWA ramped up the kind of divisive rhetoric and tactics that are crippling the labor movement. It is clear now that AFA-CWA is fully committed to trying to force a representation election at the new American. I cannot express how disappointed I am in the way you and your colleagues have chosen to conduct yourselves.
Last Friday, you sent me a letter stating, in no uncertain terms, that the agreement APFA and AFA-CWA had been working toward since the spring was no longer on the table. For months, you and I have sat across that table hammering out the details of this agreement – one that puts Flight Attendants first. In the agreement we had addressed your concerns, including the bargaining timeline, and it provided the protections all Flight Attendants need – including the arbitration backstop. The agreement also creates a joint negotiating committee consisting of members from both APFA and AFA that would put together contract openers based on the best provisions of both contracts. It is a win-win. Now you want to throw all that hard work away. According to the demands in your letter from Friday, my team and I are to arrive at our meeting on November 27 prepared to discuss a completely different proposal. One drafted by AFA-CWA without our input whatsoever. Roger, we simply cannot do that.
In light of your recent letter, earlier today I convened a special conference call of the APFA Board of Directors. We discussed your proposal and your ultimatum. The Board decided unanimously that we cannot abandon months of cooperative discussions simply because the powers that be at AFA-CWA have changed their minds. The APFA Board remains fully committed to the Strategic Partnership Agreement we were so close to finalizing. Since that appears to no longer be up for discussion, there is no point in our meeting on November 27th. Instead, the APFA leadership has chosen to focus on the many tasks at hand that affect or will affect the Flight Attendants of the new American
Despite what some of the AFA leadership have been spreading to your membership and to ours, you and I both know that APFA has been extremely patient, even forgiving, throughout our representation discussions. We have accommodated all of AFA’s challenging internal politics. We tolerated a 10-week pause in our discussions while you tried to oust your International President. We even looked the other way as AFA operatives began to raid us and mislead our membership with a coordinated propaganda campaign. Personally, I cannot count how many attacks on my character – including some from the AFA-CWA International Vice President – I have ignored. Rather than engage in this sideshow, we continued to work towards an agreement because we knew it was in the best interest of the Flight Attendants.
We cannot allow AFA-CWA’s antics to sap our energy and resources. As American prepares to exit bankruptcy and merge with US Airways, we have a higher responsibility. APFA must focus its attention on the critical issues Flight Attendants will be facing in the coming months. Our agenda is full. Our negotiating team is preparing to achieve an industry-leading contract. Our contract department is implementing a bridge agreement. We will be processing the most valuable equity claim any Flight Attendant union has ever seen. We have profit sharing to distribute and new hires to welcome.
As president of the APFA, elected by a direct vote of the membership, it is my responsibility to focus on the task at hand. I cannot afford to submit to AFA’s obvious ploy to distract and divide us. As for what could have been: it will always weigh heavily on my heart.
The work goes on.
US AIRWAYS AFA-CWA NEGOTIATION UPDATE
US Airways Flight Attendants,
Last Friday, we sent an MEC Eline that reviewed what’s at stake in this merger and what we are working to do to resolve it.Review this update, print it and share it with your flying partners. Negotiations Update >
This merger provides an opportunity for additional gains. We need to ensure management knows we are going to continue to fight hard for our fair share of the benefits of this merger.
When you ratified our contract last year we set the stage for a second bite at the apple. Without it, we would not have had the leverage of our contract with the industry’s leading job protections for all US Airways Flight Attendants and solid compensation. Our contract brings leverage to the table for American Flight Attendants. Together we can negotiate an alternate to the binding arbitration for an industry average contract that is defined by the Concessionary Labor Agreement (CLA) Doug Parker negotiated with the APFA as American Flight Attendants faced even worse cuts in bankruptcy. Your AFA contract provides the leverage for management to discuss an expedited negotiations that can produce an industry leading contract rather than industry average that would force concessions on US Airways Flight Attendants. Now we have to work hard to make the most out of this opportunity by bringing US Airways and American Flight Attendants together to maximize our leverage.
US Airways management negotiated a process with APFA for reaching a single agreement which shut out the input and experiences of 8000 US Airways Flight Attendants. This exclusionary process not only squanders an opportunity to gain an industry-leading contract, but wipes out solid contract language which governs our day-to-day working lives now and for years to come. That’s why AFA is proposing a merger of our two unions and a jointly-negotiated process for reaching a single agreement.
Merger of Unions and US Airways Contract Leverage
US Airways Flight Attendants bring leverage to the table with our contract. Management wants the Concessionary Labor Agreement (CLA) they got from APFA during the American Airlines bankruptcy. APFA simply needs to break with management and talk with AFA about joining forces for Flight Attendants. We need a unified frontline at the new American Airlines.
There will be billions of dollars in revenue created by this merger. Management wants to build a stronger airline by joining USA and AA – we need to do the same by joining our two unions. Now is the time to set the highest standards for our contract and our working conditions. We can do this by working together!
Information – Same Issues, Crunch Time
Until recently, we have not openly discussed details of discussions with APFA or reiterated our discussions during contract ratification that we needed a strong foundation to gain your right to fight for your share of benefits at the new American. We did not want to cause any friction while working for agreement. We are concerned however, that discussions are not moving in a direction that will preserve your contract or provide Flight Attendants with the right to bargain and vote for an industry leading agreement.
Time is running out and we need every Flight Attendant to support our efforts to reach an agreement that includes the interests of US Airways and American Airlines Flight Attendants.
Update on Meeting Dates with APFA
As reported on Friday, we have been pressing APFA for immediate dates to discuss an agreement on bargaining, representation and seniority. Previously, APFA had provided mid-January as the next available time to meet, but that is not acceptable and we pressed for dates in the next few weeks.
APFA has now given the date of Nov 27 to meet in New York and we have confirmed. We also suggest meeting Nov 25 and 26 since the DOJ trial will no longer interfere. And, we are ready to meet Dec 2 and 3 – dates APFA suggested as alternates.
We owe it to Flight Attendants to meet until we reach agreement. There is nothing more important right now.
Friday evening APFA sent a hotline that included several inaccuracies. It’s important that you have the facts:
- AFA is NOT running a card campaign at American Airlines. Any card signing is taking place spontaneously among thousands of American Flight Attendants who want a say in their future.
- We are focused on reaching an agreement with APFA because 24,000 Flight Attendants will do better by working together. We are committed to this and we have a responsibility to exert every effort to get this done.
- There are two parties involved in this merger and representation is directly tied to your bargaining rights. If it comes to the point that the only way to defend your contract and your right to bargain and vote for an industry leading agreement is to facilitate an election where all 24,000 Flight Attendants vote, then AFA will conduct a card campaign at American to give Flight Attendants the chance to decide your future.
- APFA has stated they will file a Single Carrier petition with the National Mediation Board immediately upon merger close – that is in many ways worse than running a card campaign because it is an effort to simply absorb 8000 Flight Attendants into APFA, thereby denying Flight Attendants the right to vote on their bargaining and representation.
- AFA believes that Flight Attendants at the New American Airlines have so much more in common than differences. We believe that by truly joining together we can achieve an industry-leading agreement which recognizes our collective sacrifices in making this merger possible. Make no mistake about it: Management is the one who gains by trying to divide Flight Attendants.
The reality is that management comes and goes, but we will all be flying partners for years and decades to come. The industry will change and we will face new challenges. Picking at each other will only help management – and they don’t need help. Management’s compensation is assured, as we all know, whether the airline succeeds or not. We have to look out for each other.
Right now, today, we have an opportunity to make the most out of this merger. What are we doing to strategize together and maximize our leverage? This is our focus in discussions with APFA.
Contracts Remain in Place in a Merger Until a New Contract is Negotiated
In reference to the statement in the APFA Hotline that if AFA becomes the representative then the American Flight Attendant contract could revert to the Last Best Final Offer (LBFO), our AFA attorney Joe Burns provides the following response:
This is nothing more than a scare tactic and one that I am sure they know is not really true. If you read their words carefully, they say Flight Attendants “could” go back to the LBFO. The CLA is an amendment to their labor agreement. By law, labor agreements remain in effect even if there is a change in representative.
To see what is true, all one has to do is look around the industry or even at US Airways. At US Airways, the pilots changed unions from ALPA to USAPA, yet the prior agreements remain in effect.
What this means in this context is upon merger closure the CLA will replace the LBFO. APFA would continue to administer the CLA through a representation election. If Flight Attendants chose AFA in a representation election, the CLA would remain in place for American Airlines Flight Attendants and the current US Airways Agreement would remain in effect for US Airways Flight Attendants. We would negotiate an expedited process for reaching a single Flight Attendant agreement at the New American. Until we negotiated a single agreement, the CLA and the USA contract would remain in place for the respective workgroups.
But remember – all of this representation election discussion would be moot if APFA would decide to join forces with us and talk about how to utilize the leverage we bring to the table through both contracts.
Did You Know?
Did you know it was a case that AFA Legal brought forward that affirms contracts remain in place in a merger regardless of the representative? AFA has decades of experience with mergers and defending the rights of Flight Attendants. AFA Legal has attorneys who are recognized as some of the world’s foremost experts on labor law under the Railway Labor Act. We have these resources at our union because AFA members have demanded and supported expert focus on our work as Flight Attendants.
What can you do to protect your future?
Sign up for the Mobilization Committee. Know your contract, and realize the benefits of strong union representation. It’s time to join forces with our American Airlines counterparts. Together we will do better.
Wear your RED AFA pin to show management we deserve the best contract in the industry, not one that’s only industry average. Put those bag tags on your suitcases. Show that we are a force to be reckoned with and that we WILL be taken very seriously. We will not stand idly by while our sisters brothers at AA remain under another concessionary agreement… working together, we’ll build the Best Contract at the Biggest Airline in the world!