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Laura’s Opening Remarks at the APFA Board of Directors Meeting – March 2013

 

2013 Annual Convention and Board Meeting President's Opening Remarks

Good morning. Like I've done for the past several Conventions, I'm going to start this 2013 meeting with some brief comments (well … maybe not so brief).

Our Base Representative elections have just concluded, so this Annual Convention will be the final meeting of our Organization's governing body for several Board members and other Base Representatives who have served the membership over the last two years – many more in some cases. These are:

Abby Alconcher
Meghan Corrigan
Jay Fuller
Justin Wildish
Kelli Harrington
Eric Hodgson
Kevin Johnson
Michael Medeiros
Brian O’Connell
Monty Purdom
Peggy Turley

***Susan Wroble is moving to Chair; and Tim Weston and Robert Valenta – the quintessential buddy bidders – are doing a position swap.

On behalf of the National Officers and all your colleagues on the APFA Board of Directors, I thank you for your hard work. You helped us get to a very historic time in our Union. Your strength and commitment are very much appreciated. Your sacrifice and service have made a difference. I hope – and suspect – that after a well-deserved break at least some of you will come back and lend your spirit and experience to the cause. I sadly suspect that Peggy Turley will be hanging her “union hat” on the hook permanently. I don’t know how to begin to thank and recognize someone who has given so much over so many years. Peggy, we will always remember your gentle and passionate strength and your beautiful smile.

To our newly-elected Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons here in this room now, or who may join us to observe in the days to come, we look forward to working with all of you, and thank you for stepping up to help with the second half of this amazing journey. The best advice I can offer is keep your sense of humor. Our incoming Representatives are:

Bill Denmark
Matthew Faust
Todd McJunkin
David Ransom
Forest Blake
Philip Clifton
Brian Pinkowski
Heidi Sakacs

What you will witness here is a clear manifestation of democratic and progressive labor leadership at its best. I hope that will find your work here on the Board and at your bases rewarding. I guarantee it will be challenging and frustrating. Congratulations to each of you and welcome.

This is my fifth time chairing our Annual Convention as APFA President. The first was in 2009 in Boston after nearly a year in office. That was a difficult meeting. Those of you here today who were present can attest. In the face of some very harsh budget realities, and overshadowed by the increasingly clear intransigence of our employer towards dealing fairly with our work group – with all the work groups in fact – the Board in 2009 made some hard-fought and lasting changes to the way we do business internally.

Though I would have never thought it conceivable at the time, I look back kind of wistfully at Boston now. It was the proverbial cake walk in comparison to nearly every one of the Conventions since. We have faced some of the most difficult challenges and decisions we could have imagined, each one of them even more so than the next.

But here we are. We have survived. APFA has never shied away from facing directly, without fear or trepidation, whatever obstacles have been laid before us. We have done so while remaining strong and true to our ideals of forging the best and most secure future for the membership – dare I say: for the entire profession.

Yes, here WE are.

Crandall, Carty, Arpey and … soon … Horton, will be gone … but WE are still here. I have no doubt that shortly there will be a course offered in business schools across the nation: “Bad Business – How Not to Treat Your Employees – and Then Lose Control of Your Company.”

Levity aside, let's not lose sight of some facts. The route of recent history of American Airlines, and hence APFA, has been unprecedented in this industry in so many ways. All bankruptcies are ugly. By their nature, they unceremoniously destroy and discard past generations of gains and future generations of promise. Few are left unscathed by the process.

It is obvious that AMR entered this bankruptcy with the expectation that their cash (or should I say OUR cash), the sheer will of their executives, their presumed skills – perhaps just their egos – would carry the day, would redefine not just American but the industry and – in a flash – would remake our airline into the envy of every corporate boardroom and the darling of the public. They believed their own press, as it were, and therein lay their folly.

Those of us who have built our professional careers and lives around this company know that the strengths of American and AMR, and there are many, lie in the very front line work groups that management continually seeks to bully into submission. To their woe, they misjudged our determination and our perseverance, our strength and our unity.

We were, in a word: underestimated.

APFA, from the very seeds of its founding in 1977, has never settled for letting others steer our course . Since AMR's bankruptcy filing in November 2011, we have been innately determined not to sit idly by and let others decide our fate for us. We took the lead, staked our position and never blinked. We did it our way; we did not wait for others to act. Moreover, our members clearly backed our plan; they have stood strong and united. Among the public and our peers this has not gone unnoticed.

None of this has transpired by luck or accident. I am reminded of the Samuel Goldwyn quote: “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” Where we have had successes, it has been through your hard work and foresight. APFA – all of us here on this Board – took the time and spent the necessary resources to chart the best course forward … and not just for us but for the company.

We demanded a role in developing the future American Airlines. We have fought hard, along with our fellow unions, to build a stable company and we have made the sacrifices necessary to make that happen. To help us, we hired the best talent – experts, consultants, advisers and legal help –  because that's what our members deserved. Alphabetically:
Dan Akins – best airline economist / consultant
Rob Clayman – negotiations and bankruptcy counsel
Jeff Freund – merger consultant
Mady Gilson – general counsel
Jefferies Group – financial analysts and investment bankers
         Leon Szlezinger
         Alex Rohan
         John D’Amico
         Steve Koch
         Colin Lee / Samantha

With their help our Union forced management to engage in strategic alternatives – even when it might have seemed counter-intuitive – to sign the Non-Disclosure Agreement that turned the tables. Make no mistake, had we not convinced the Unsecured Creditors Committee to first consider this merger, and then to take the necessary steps to have this happen while in bankruptcy, we would not be sitting here celebrating this achievement today.

APFA – and APFA alone – turned that committee completely around. It was the skill and strategic advice from our advisors and your unflinching support of a merger inside bankruptcy that made this happen.

This Board has taken well-considered, levelheaded and decisive actions for the simple reason that we were not content to take crumbs and we are committed to help set the course for a successful company. Not coincidentally, our position today on the dawn of emerging from bankruptcy is more solid than anyone would have expected, more than anyone else has achieved before.

As bad as this has been, and as much as we have sacrificed, we managed to create a better outcome than in any other bankruptcy we know of. Past bankruptcies in this industry have thrown labor into the back seat, if not under the wheels. But this time, not only did labor drive the coming merger, we did so inside the bankruptcy process – a first in this industry. It has taken our counterparts at other carriers years to make any gains after the severe concessions they were forced to take in bankruptcy. Again, I know it has been very hard and people are still struggling. But you don’t have to look very hard to see that it could have been far worse.

Let's be clear, though. This isn't done. Our members will continue to live with some uncertainty for the coming year. But unlike those who trod this path before us, we have secured the promise of an industry-rate contract. We have ensured we will not be relegated to the bottom rung. We will never again be underestimated. We have made the American Airlines Flight Attendants true players in the game, not to be ignored.

As the new American takes shape we will continue to push for real change. Our membership entrusted this Union, this Board, with their futures like never before. We will meet our responsibilities to them without wavering.

We must remain committed to seeing this merger through in the months to come. Gaining a seat for APFA at the table brings with it tremendous responsibility – and just the start of the process of profoundly influencing and defining labor-management relations in the new American. In doing so, our presence on the UCC during bankruptcy will not become just a footnote in the history of our Union. Rather it will mark the dawn of a new era, one of enduring respect for our Institution and its members. With the change in leadership at American, I am confident that we will see a long needed change in culture. There will be a change in tone, message and approach. There will surely be confrontations along the way; there will be disagreements great and small. But with the proven vigilance, wisdom and forward-thinking of this Board, we are up to the task.

Within APFA too, as we and our peers from US Airways combine, changes will occur – as they must. We will face these changes head on, with strength and unity of purpose with one goal and one only: to best support the profession, the livelihood and the future of our members. They deserve no less.

Thank you.

APFA Headquarters
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Phone: (817) 540-0108

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APFA Headquarters
1004 West Euless Boulevard
Euless, Texas 76040

M-F: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Call APFA

Contract & Scheduling Desk
M-F: 7:00AM - 7:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Chat APFA

After-Hours Live Chat
M-F: 3:00PM - 11:00 PM (CT)
Sat-Sun: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)

APFA Events

Currently, no scheduled events...

APFA Headquarters
1004 West Euless Boulevard
Euless, Texas 76040

M-F: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Call APFA

Contract & Scheduling Desk
M-F: 7:00AM - 7:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Chat APFA

After-Hours Live Chat
M-F: 3:00PM - 11:00 PM (CT)
Sat-Sun: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)

APFA Events

Currently, no scheduled events...

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