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6.06.22 – Lawsuits Filed Against APFA

APFA Special Hotline

Monday, June 6, 2022

Lawsuits Filed Against APFA

One of the first steps we took upon taking office a little over two years ago was reasserting APFA’s adherence to financial accountability and transparency. Our administration and your Board of Directors implemented financial reform in many sections throughout our Policy Manual, but there is still more to accomplish.

Both the law and the APFA Constitution are clear- APFA members have a right to review the union’s financial records to see how our dues dollars are spent. Previous allegations of financial impropriety were swept under the rug in the name of unity or protecting the institution.

After an in-depth review of APFA’s financial records, members brought forward charges under Article VII of the APFA Constitution against former APFA National President Bob Ross and former APFA National Treasurer Eugenio Vargas for financial malfeasance and mismanagement. The problem is clear: APFA’s structure lacks a higher level of financial oversight above the National Officer level. Our National Officers are expected to do the right thing concerning financial accountability. Under our imperfect system of checks and balances, APFA members are tasked with attempting to ensure financial accountability at APFA.

The aforementioned charges were heard by one of the most respected arbitrators in the country who had no prior involvement with APFA, Arbitrator Ruben Armendariz, a board member of the prestigious National Academy of Arbitrators. After days of hearing and reviewing lengthy briefs, Arbitrator Armendariz issued decisions in each case in February and March of this year and took the extraordinary step of banning both former officers from holding any position for life in APFA. Both were fined and ordered to repay certain costs related to the arbitration. In addition, Arbitrator Armendariz ordered an independent audit of meal expenses, car rentals, furniture purchases, and personal vacation expenses paid for by APFA, which is ongoing.

In the Vargas award, after a three-day hearing and full exchange of evidence, Arbitrator Armendariz determined: “It is this arbitrators Opinion, Vargas attempted to benefit monetarily and thus failed in his fiduciary duty as National Treasurer by willfully changing the formula for the payouts for Bob Ross, Nena Martin, and Marcy Dunaway as well as himself.”  Arbitrator Armendariz also found Vargas failed in his duty to properly inventory furniture and ordered an audit of meal expenses.

In the Ross award, Arbitrator Armendariz determined that “Defendant Ross has overwhelmingly violated the APFA Policy Manual and APFA Constitution.” Arbitrator Armendariz further stated: “The arbitrator finds that throughout this proceeding, Defendant Ross intentionally and willfully ignored the provisions of the APFA Policy Manual and thus, has violated and abused his fiduciary duty entrusted to him by the APFA membership. Ross’s testimony was inconsistent and not forthright. Because Ross abused his position of trust as well as his fiduciary duty to the membership of the APFA, he can no longer hold a position of trust with the APFA.” 

The arbitrator took the rare step of ordering Mr. Ross to pay the full cost of the hearing and repay APFA for certain infractions. Ross was banned from holding any position with APFA for life and told to resign as SFO Base President.

To be clear, what was uncovered in these hearings was nothing short of shocking. The union credit card was used to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars on furniture and meals for officers with insufficient documentation or adherence to proper procedure. Much of this furniture is still unaccounted for. Key financial records are missing, and the meal policy was often not adhered to.

This should have been the end of the matter, and APFA should be able to focus on defending and negotiating our contract with American Airlines.

In the aftermath of the arbitration awards, rather than accepting the rulings, the Ross and Vargas teams have chosen to go to Federal Court to attempt to overturn the arbitration awards. In complaints filled with conspiracy theories and dubious legal theories, they argue everyone is to blame but themselves.

Click here to read the Ross v APFA complaint.

Click here to read APFA’s response to the Ross v APFA complaint.

Click here to read the Vargas v APFA complaint.

(Because the Vargas complaint was filed after the Ross complaint, APFA’s response to the Vargas v APFA complaint has not yet been filed with the court.)

The law and the APFA Constitution are very clear that arbitration awards are final and binding. By suing APFA to overturn the awards, the charged parties will cost the APFA membership a great deal of dues money in the form of legal fees (unless the charged parties are required to pay costs). These lawsuits serve no purpose but to divert attention from the workplace issues that matter to our Flight Attendants.

Another concern is the corruption that existed within APFA by limiting members’ access to union financials out of fear that others would uncover potential impropriety. In the past, APFA Leaders were advised by their outside legal counsel to limit financial transparency and “protect the institution.” The lack of financial oversight of APFA National Officers has created these problems. As a result, we are forced to hire an outside arbitrator to oversee Article VII charges, which is a costly procedure. Article VII, Section 6.H of the APFA Constitution provides that the decision of the Article VII Arbitrator shall be final and binding on the accuser and the accused. When we receive an arbitration award and the accused parties refuse to accept the results, they make a mockery of the APFA Constitution, and we must spend our dues dollars on defending our union and our leadership, instead of using those finances to improve the work lives of the membership. APFA cannot continue to operate this way in the long term.

We don’t believe it was always this way at APFA. The founders of our union broke free from the male-dominated Transport Workers Union (TWU) and formed a union focused on Flight Attendants. By all accounts, they ran a clean union, and we have many accomplishments over the years. But things change, and good intentions are not enough. Over the last decade, this union has lurched from one internal crisis to another.

APFA members work hard for our dues money every day. We believe in the work conducted at APFA and all the Leaders and Flight Attendants who make up our union.

We deserve to know our dues are being spent for their intended purpose. We will maintain financial transparency, vigorously defend this union, and keep you apprised of the status of these lawsuits.

In Solidarity,

1004 West Euless Boulevard
Euless, Texas 76040

Phone: (817) 540-0108
Fax: (817) 540-2077

 

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