This is APFA President Laura Glading and today is February 3, 2010.
Late on Monday, February 1, the nation’s business press reported that American Airlines has made inquiries to the FAA regarding the possibility of training replacement workers in the event of a strike by our membership. AA has not denied making such inquiries.
Among other thoughts on this tactic by AA, what’s clear is that Mark Burdette (AA’s Vice President – Employee Relations), Taylor Vaughn (AA’s Managing Director – Employee Relations) and their negotiating team are more concerned with bringing in replacement workers rather than getting our contract settled. This is a dangerous path to go down.
American’s management has repeatedly expressed its dismay and displeasure over our members’ recent picketing activities which coincided with-some would say celebrated-our historic strike against American over 16 years ago. Now they themselves step into the past and resurrect their dismal game plan of November 1993 when talks broke down and our members engaged in a five-day job action. We effectively grounded the airline. AA’s refusal to bargain then inconvenienced tens of thousands of passengers and cost untold millions of dollars.
At that time, American attempted to use replacement workers who they had trained in abbreviated classes. They vastly overestimated their capacity to operate without us. At the same time, they grossly underestimated the resolve of our Flight Attendants to literally put their livelihoods on the line for a decent, fair and livable working agreement. That resolve has never waivered to this day.
Our picketing and leafleting on November 18, 2009, and our RED DISK day of solidarity on January 19, prove conclusively that our members have a vivid memory of what we had to do 16 years ago. Most of our Flight Attendants working today were here in ’93. They do not fear renewed and specious threats of replacement.
The company’s transparent attempts now to threaten our members’ job security-and the very idea that they could train enough workers to replace well over 16,000 active Flight Attendants-is nothing short of hubris. Clearly, the company is afraid of the growing and visible discontent in the workforce for which they are solely responsible. Our members are increasingly frustrated and angry with management’s empty rhetoric and failed promises at every turn.
American’s consideration now to open their purse strings and fund an ill-conceived and doomed strategy belies their constant cries of economic hardship. The message is that they are willing to spend vast sums on a scheme doomed to failure, while continuing to avoid negotiating remaining economic issues at the bargaining table. When we return to Washington at the end of February, in a continuation of intensified talks under Federal mediation, management will have to answer to its Flight Attendants and to the NMB for this double-standard.
Though we remain committed to the process of collectively achieving an agreement that recognizes the sacrifices Flight Attendants have made, AA’s stalling and bad faith bargaining pushes us ever closer to impasse.
Finally, several events over just the past year have very vividly shown the vital role played by Flight Attendants throughout the industry in maintaining the safety and well-being of passengers. Our crews at American draw on skills gained over long careers-each with thousands of hours of in-flight experience and years of recurrent training. APFA members make difficult professional, economic and personal sacrifices every day. Its more than just dollars and cents to them. Our members are committed to protecting the integrity of this profession.
If the company thinks a 1993 abridged training manual will work in today’s post-9/11 world, they are sorely mistaken. Furthermore, if they think the airline can operate with a minimally-trained group, cobbled together for no other reason than management’s stubbornness, its shortsightedness and its misguided attempt to break the will of our membership shows not just poor judgment, but incredible lack of hindsight.
This is a plan that literally just won’t fly.