As a 25-year flight attendant for American Airlines, Jerry Casas felt the latest contract proposal would give the company more concessions while the airline is posting record profits.
“There were too many gaps, too many to-be-determineds in the contract,” said Casas, who works international flights out of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. “It was a big block of Swiss cheese.”
About 100 flight attendants gathered outside of a union board meeting at the Hilton DFW Lakes in Grapevine on Wednesday to discuss the recent rejection of a contract proposal and their dissatisfaction with their union’s leadership.
Holding signs that said “We voted for a world-class airline,” the flight attendants greeted American Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker and President Scott Kirby as they entered the hotel to attend the Association of Professional Flight Attendants board meeting. Parker spoke briefly to the group after he met with the union board.
“We were disappointed that we didn’t get the [tentative agreement] passed,” Parker told the flight attendants. “My personal view is a lot of this was a lot of history that we walked into that I understand and the result is not as much trust as we would like to have at this point between management and our employees.”
Earlier this month, the flight attendants rejected a contract proposal that included pay raises and a minimum work requirement of 480 hours per year. Out of over 16,000 votes cast, the contract was rejected by a margin of 16 votes.
Nancy Sperry, a DFW flight attendant who has worked for American a little over a year, said she was concerned about the work rules in the proposed contract.
“Its important to be a part of a workforce that is compensated fairly for its efforts, the pay that was talked about is not evenly distributed,” Sperry said, who currently is flying on reserve. “But this isn’t about money. It’s about work rules and being valued as an employee. We are an integral part of the face of the new American.”
Most of the work rules in the proposed contract are already in place for US Airways flight attendants so that was not an issue for Philadelphia-based flight attendant Karen Bettin. Bettin said she hopes a joint contract for the flight attendants includes better 401(k) and health insurance options.
“We’re at a point where we really need to stand united, all 24,000 of us, whether you voted yes or no on the contract,”’ Bettin said, who attended the meeting.
As a US Airways flight attendant, she also has a profit sharing plan which was not included in the proposed contract. American flight attendnants used to have a profit sharing plan but it was negotiated out of the current contract and some have wanted to add it back. Bettin says she would rather have fixed pay raises now adding that profit sharing should be treated like a bonus instead of part of the total compensation package in a contract.
Parker and Kirby met with union leaders for about an hour and half and talked about the arbitration process which is set to begin on December 3. Both the union and the company have said the contract determined by the arbitration panel will likely be worth $82 million less in wages and benefits than the contract that was rejected.
“What we learned in this process is that there is still a trust issue between what management says and what the employees believe and you don’t build trust by not doing what you said you were going to do...so we’re moving forward with arbitration,” Parker said, adding that it is unlikely there will be another flight attendant vote because that is not part of the arbitration process.
APFA spokeswoman Leslie Mayo said the meeting was focused on preparing for the arbitration process and welcomed members who wanted to express their opinions on the contract vote to the board.
“The contract that will be awarded is according to the agreement is ‘market-based in the aggregate’,” Mayo said. “I have to say it’s so great to see so many flight attendants at a meeting.”