Special Hotline Message from APFA President Laura Glading
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Dear APFA Member,
Just this past week, APFA and American jointly concluded an agreement to accelerate the return of our furloughed members, adding another 200 recalls to the 368 announced just a few weeks prior.
This is truly good new and not just for those who have been on the furlough list for so long. Who could have ever predicted the changes in our industry over the past decade that rendered the five-year recall rights provided in our agreement so inadequate today? The long fight by APFA to extend these recall rights – and our many successes in doing so ñ now bears fruit as members furloughed as long ago as Spring 2003 have the opportunity to rejoin their colleagues and their careers.
It has taken several steps, each time facing resistance by American, extending recall rights by just a short period. As part of this agreement, those remaining on the furlough list after the current recalls will have unlimited recall rights and APFA will no longer have to fight the same battle again for their futures.
For those currently on the line, the continued return of furloughed members serves to replenish our decimated ranks. This increases transfer opportunities for everyone, diminishes the seniority stagnation that has left members languishing on reserve and underscores the turning tide at American and the industry from job loss and contraction to expansion of our profession and our company.
As your APFA Leadership works continuously, both on the base and national levels, to support and protect the working lives of our active members by seeking protection of and improvement to our working conditions, we never lose sight of our parallel and equally vital role: that of creating and protecting union jobs. This role is not only critical, it is one of our most important responsibilities, made all the more visible and pertinent today with daily news reports of attacks on long-standing rights of workers to organize and to collectively negotiate their working conditions and their futures. This agreement to get more union members back to work and extend the recall rights for those remaining on furlough goes to this dual union function.
In conjunction with the additional recalls and the unlimited recall rights extension, we also concluded an agreement allowing American to hire a limited number of Mandarin speakers to fly as APFA members on our new Los Angeles to Shanghai route, even while a declining number of members remain on furlough.
Here is some background on how we came to the difficult decision on this agreement: we are all aware that American has demonstrated a general failure to keep pace and compete in the global marketplace. Where AA was once a leader, it has fallen behind other carriers which have invested more heavily in their equipment, their facilities, their alliances, and ñ in far too many cases compared to American ñ their employees. Although this is not the fault of our Flight Attendant corps, we have suffered greatly because of it.
The company has been playing catch-up with its competitors for too long and just now is starting to enter international markets where the skill and dedication of our unionized workforce can again put American among the airline leaders. Today, American makes no secret in its desire to make LAX a critical player in growing its role in Asia and globally. We need APFA members on the planes, in the aisles, using our specialized skills where we possess them and where they are required as American looks to increase bookings between Asia and South America and other markets where it seeks to grow in influence.
Internally, among our membership, we have always experienced and recognized competing interests when it comes to the staffing of foreign language qualified Flight Attendants. When such a need arises, as it clearly does in many international markets, we historically have struck a delicate balance between placing fully-trained APFA member Flight Attendants in the aisles over seeing American outsource, if you will, resorting to using paper-shuffling managers or even ñ as do many of our competitors ñ foreign-based, C-scale interpreters, who possess neither the same onboard skills, nor interests, nor professional goals of our career Flight Attendants.
Our contractual language reflects this balancing act and has been argued, defended and modified over many years as the needs reflecting American’s route system have changed over time. The balance struck here is in keeping with our historic staffing arrangements and differs only in the restrictive hiring of thirty new, Mandarin-qualified APFA members while other members remain on the recall list. In this instance, and after much internal debate, your APFA Leadership feels strongly that it is a balance which reflects both the immediate need of this particular route and the best long-range interests of our membership.
APFA’s announcement on February 18 of the 200 additional recalls, the recall rights extension, and the restrictive hiring of new Mandarin-qualified APFA member Flight Attendants, gave special thanks to Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan of Missouri. Representative Carnahan continues to be a strong advocate for labor and for the issues that impact the continued erosion of the American middle class. His constituency includes a large number of APFA members, both active Flight Attendants and currently furloughed members.
Representative Carnahan’s strong encouragement for a deal between APFA and American management to both bring members back to work and to give promise of a possibility of recall to those who have not yet returned is a beacon of hope amidst a growing wave of government leaders intent on destroying hard-earned, middle class, union-driven gains. What we are seeing in City Halls and State Houses across the nation and in the chambers of power in Washington amounts to a blatant attack on organized labor in the public and private sectors.
As a prime example, the teachers’ and other public sector unions in Wisconsin are under attack in Madison where the state’s governor and legislature are attempting to strip away their rights to negotiate over their working conditions and their future. We applaud and support the efforts of the teachers and other public sector unionists to ìstop the insanity.” In short, labor unions around this country are facing an all out assault. Though the battle is far from over, the only chance we have is to work collectively and to procure some advocates on Capitol Hill to give us a voice.
Everyone has a responsibility to get behind this effort. It really is time to take to the streets. Your APFA National Leadership, your Base Chairs and Vice Chairs will spend a day lobbying Washington leaders in conjunction with and the day before the start of our Annual Convention in that city. Our purpose is to update our government officials on our three-year fight against AMR in negotiations – and, once again, express our outrage that we are fast approaching another April with executive bonuses!
Finally, we live in a culture where complimenting our leadership is taboo. The upcoming lobbying activities by your Base Representatives are but one example of the duties taken on by your APFA Board of Directors, your elected voice in the decisions that shape APFA and our futures. As we prepare for the Annual Convention followed by the start of new two-year terms for Base Chairs and Vice Chairs, we should all recognize the role these fellow members play in an effort to make all of our lives better.
In the popular vernacular, they have “stepped up to the plate.” They work tirelessly, with little or no thanks, and are forced to make some very difficult decisions which they know will not, cannot, please everyone. The very nature of our workforce – the differing emphasis we each as individuals place on what we need and desire from our careers – means the decisions they make take great deliberation. They have to weigh a tremendous amount of information, consider all consequences and then decide what is best for their base, and the membership as a whole.
Your membership role does not stop with casting your vote in elections. Keep informed and involved by communicating with your Base and National leaders and using the tools we all have to listen, read and above all, critically consider the information available. Contact your Base Chair or Vice Chair or National Representative with your thoughts and concerns and to find out what you can do in the efforts we all must make as members to support our careers.
In continued unity,
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