APFA Special Hotline – February 1, 2013: One Year Ago Today
Exactly one year ago today, AMR started the Section 1113 process by calling a meeting with all of the unions at Flagship University. Management proceeded to hand out “Term Sheets” that called for decimating our contracts and destroying our working lives. It was a shocking, frightening, and discouraging day. At that time, no one could have imagined that twelve months later we would be so close to a merger announcement with US Airways with a clear path back to a network contract and the job security that comes with working for a strong, competitive airline.
This success is the product of a year’s worth of tense negotiations, hard work, and a strong united front. We never accepted management’s vision for the future. Instead we came together and fought for something better. Management’s demands were unreasonable and their “negotiators” were unrelenting. We were simply not willing to accept management’s $230 million demand and as long as they held that line, negotiations did not move.
In April, we traveled to Phoenix to talk with a management team that not only appreciated the value of labor but understood that it had to create a network large enough to compete against the likes of Delta and United. In just four days we accomplished more than we had in three years of bargaining with American. We hashed out a Bridge Agreement or Collective Labor Agreement (CLA) that provides a short term contract following a merger and prescribes a process for achieving a fair network contract as soon as possible.
With a better option in our back pocket, our focus shifted to the courtroom where our team battled against American’s effort to reject our contract. When negotiations resumed in June, American still refused to make any significant move away from its initial 1113 proposal, so we waited and we held firm on our position.
At the same time, it became clear that if US Airways management was to pursue a merger it would first need access to American’s financial and operational information, which would require a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). American’s refusal to sign an NDA would stop any movement towards a merger. Understanding its critical importance, Laura Glading demanded that American sign an NDA before APFA would vote on the Last Best and Final Offer (LBFO). It was a high stakes game of chicken, but ultimately it was Management that blinked. On July 19, we learned that US Airways had the NDA in hand and we sent out the LBFO for a vote shortly thereafter.
The APFA membership approved the LBFO on August 19th, and on September 12th the Bankruptcy Court did as well, a necessary step to achieve our ultimate goal. Not only did the LBFO move us closer to a merger, but by the end of September more than 2,200 of our colleagues had availed themselves of the Voluntary Early-Out Program and would be leaving the company over the next year. Within weeks, American announced not the furlough, as it had originally planned, but the hiring of 2,000 new Flight Attendants – the first in almost twelve years.
During the Fall of 2012, more and more pieces necessary for a merger fell into place: agreements were reached with every workgroup and discussions of “strategic alternatives” ramped up between American and US Airways. At the end of the year, in an incredible demonstration of how far we had come, we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by not only American, but by US Airways as well. This agreement clarified several provisions of the CLA and how they would operate in the event of a merger.
Today, Wall Street analysts are no longer debating the merits of consolidation. Instead, among the final topics for discussion is how the equity will be split between the two carriers. While there is no deal yet, there can be no doubt that we, the 16,000 Flight Attendants of American Airlines, now stand far from where we stood a mere 12 months ago. Of course, we cannot rest as there is still much to do, but today we should take a moment to realize what we’ve accomplished since that February day at Flagship University.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants
No one knows better than the Flight Attendants of American Airlines that these are tough times at our company. In fact, times have been tough for a long time for us. Each and every day, beyond the unfortunate but typical inquiries at APFA over contractual violations, cuts in pay and changes in our work rules, we field a new call from a member who is facing extraordinary challenges as a result of the diminishing resources we are provided. Every story resonates with your Union leadership. Indeed, the list of disheartening, disenfranchising, and downright abusive developments is long.
In spite of it all, we are on the eve of a tremendous accomplishment. Never before has an airline labor group come out of bankruptcy with the promise of an industry-rate contract and the ironclad path to achieving it. Never before have the organized labor groups of a bankrupt airline played such a role in determining their own destiny. Never before have the workers stood up to the gamed system that is the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and forced the better option on their own management. It has never happened before and is a true testament to the American Airlines Flight Attendants.
This vantage point didn’t happen by accident. It happened because our membership knows how to get it done. When management handed down their Section 1113 Term Sheet last February, we instantly channeled the steely resolve we had in 1993.
• We delivered a petition of “no confidence” in management’s business plan with over 11,000 signatures, gathered in amatter of days.
• We held system-wide demonstrations that changed the bankruptcy narrative management had worked so hard to craft.
• We stormed Capitol Hill and made sure everyone knew the truth and if they didn’t want to listen we made them listen.
• We rallied in front of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in lower Manhattan with hundreds of our brothers and sisters.
It was vintage APFA. We had on display the same grit and fortitude that the unionists that made this job a profession all those years ago had. They would be proud. We should be proud.
For a more exhaustive list of APFA’s accomplishments over the past two years, click here.”
AmericanAirlines + US Airways
“Our Future Depends On It”
APFA National Communications Coordinator