Friday, January 12, 2024
Earlier this week, APFA and American Airlines were notified that the Arbitrator scheduled to hear the Staffing Presidential Arbitration has encountered a sudden family emergency, compelling the need to postpone the hearing. The soonest available date to reschedule the Arbitrator was April 16th-19th, 2024.
This postponement has prompted questions on the process of selecting an Arbitrator. Here are a few clarifying questions to help explain the process.
How is an Arbitrator chosen to hear a case?
JCBA Section 31.J requires APFA and American Airlines to maintain a list of eleven mutually acceptable Arbitrators to proceed over all grievance disputes that result in arbitration. In accordance with Section 31.K.3.b of the JCBA, APFA and AA attempt to agree on the appointment of an Arbitrator from the pre-determined list of Arbitrators for each individual dispute. If the parties are unable to agree on appointment of a specific Arbitrator, the parties “strike” for an Arbitrator. The “strike” process is an interactive process whereby APFA and AA engage in a back-and-forth of striking Arbitrators from the predetermined list until a single Arbitrator is left.
What happens once an Arbitrator is chosen and agreed upon by both APFA and American?
Once the Arbitrator is set and agreed upon, the work begins to choose a date to hear the case. APFA, American, and the Arbitrator must agree upon that date. This can be challenging when it’s a significant case- many individuals are directly involved with the case, and there is usually a considerable witness list.
Once the Arbitrator is agreed upon and the date is selected, they’re locked in place.
Why can’t the Arbitrator be scheduled sooner than April? We’ve already waited long enough!
APFA requested a new date as soon as possible. The soonest date available for all parties was April 16th.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we do business, including the scheduling of arbitrations. For over a year and a half, the pandemic halted all arbitrations. There were no in-person meetings because of the lockdowns and many restrictions. Once we were on the other side of the pandemic and restrictions were slowly lifted, we began the process of choosing Arbitrators. Due to the long pause in hearing cases, there was a tremendous backlog, and it was very difficult to find available Arbitrators with availability to hear a case. Many of these Arbitrators were only hearing virtual cases.
Did APFA offer to delay this arbitration?
No. APFA and American were notified simultaneously by the Arbitrator that she had a sudden family emergency. Upon notification, we immediately began meeting with all parties involved to choose another date as quickly as possible.
This Arbitrator scheduled to hear our Staffing Arbitration also heard the previous APFA 777 Presidential Grievance in the early 2000s. APFA prevailed in that Presidential Grievance, and our Flight Attendants were awarded understaffing pay for flights worked after the staffing was decreased. APFA feels strongly that this Arbitrator should hear this case.
This is an important case affecting many Flight Attendants. We understand your frustration with the postponement. We are frustrated, too. We are fully prepared and look forward to presenting our case in April.
In the meantime, you can assist us by reporting any staffing-related issues using the Staffing Levels Report form on the APFA website. This includes, but is not limited to, instances in which the reduced staffing caused or contributed to:
- Inability to complete service entirely, properly, efficiently, or timely.
- Inability to address a medical emergency or passenger disruption properly or effectively.
- Inability to provide flight deck with timely bio breaks or meal service.
- Receiving no crew rest or less than the prescribed amount of crew rest required in JCBA Section 38.B; and
- Any safety or security issues.
APFA National Vice President