The Mandarin Side Letter of Agreement
Was it Blackmail or was it Negotiated?
February 24, 2011
Honorable Russ Carnahan
United States Representative
1710 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC, 20515
(Sent via email @ https://forms.house.gov/carnahan/webforms/issue_subscribe.htm)
Re: American Airlines to begin hiring and employing before recalling those on furlough
My employer, American Airlines, and my union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), recently reached an agreement to allow American to hire 30 Mandarin speakers out of seniority for American’s new Los Angeles — Shanghai route; the Agreement also allows American to employ those new hire employees before recalling those who have been on furlough since 2002. In exchange for the Agreement, American agreed to unlimited recall rights for those remaining on furlough.
This Side Letter of Agreement has caused quite a commotion amongst the American Airlines flight attendants, both on and off the property. The idea that APFA would agree to allow American to bypass seniority (not to mention employ out of seniority) has made many flight attendants quite angry.
The reason I'm contacting you, Congressman, is to ask you to clarify some comments made by APFA governance in their explanation of this recent Side Letter of Agreement. Given that recall rights aren't expected to expire until November of this year, flight attendants would like to know why APFA acquiesced to the company's demand for new-hire speakers without demanding a new collective bargaining agreement in return — that or at the very least the recall all those on furlough.
In short, three APFA Board Members are accusing your office of applying pressure on APFA governance to extend recall. One board member even went are far as to state in a union email that you personally called APFA President Laura Glading and "basically pushed her into a corner" further adding that the "APFA was being blackmailed!"
These are some strong allegations that really need to be clarified by your office, Congressman. If you would so kind as to explain why APFA governance is accusing you of such action, the flight attendants at American would be most appreciative.
Rock Salomon BOS
American Airlines Flight Attendant
Association of Professional Flight Attendants Member
From: Todd Breckenridge <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2011 13:16:24 -0600
Subject: The Real Story
ORD E-Mail Group,
I'd like to start with an apology in not sending this information out in a more timely manner. I was in DFW all of last week with the Board of Director's Briefing/Meeting on Wednesday, and then I had to stay for the APFA Budget Committee meeting which took place on Thursday and Friday. I did not return to Chicago until late Friday.
The announcement was made on Friday that the APFA and the company have agreed to give the remaining furloughs unlimited recall rights in exchange for the hiring of 30 Mandarin speakers outside the terms of the Contract.
I strongly feel that I need to address some of your concerns and issues.
This whole issue surfaced last week and a Board of Director's (BOD) briefing/meeting was called for this past Wednesday in DFW to brief the Board on how all of this came about. After some very intense and heated discussions, it was decided by the majority of the BOD to support this decision. 368 recalls were planned for this Summer/Fall. Laura was able to get the company to agree to increase the number of recalls in the next 2 rounds by an additional 200 F/A's. After all of these furloughs are brought back, we should have approximately 200+ furloughs left. This group will begin to fall off the Recall List in November and January. Thus, the decision was made to give this last group unlimited recall rights in exchange for allowing the company to hire 30 Mandarin speakers.
First and foremost, a union's primary responsibility is to protect ALL jobs. That is what APFA is trying to do here - plain and simple. It would be irresponsible for us not to do everything in our power not to try and get these F/A's back.
These Mandarin speakers will have certain restrictions places on them:
- They will be placed on the bottom of the seniority list - behind all furloughs.
- They will be fenced in to LAX-I. If the Shanghai route does not pan out, they will be the first to be furloughed.
- They will also be APFA members. Would you rather have another 30 APFA members or 30 members of management on these flights? Does Moscow ring a bell? Those Russian "speakers" were not APFA F/A's - they were management positions. By agreeing to let the company hire the Mandarin speakers as F/A's, they will be APFA members - not management.
Some may say "Why are we giving the company anything, when we don't even have a contract"? I couldn't agree more, and until the BOD meeting, I strongly felt the same way. After our briefing, and after I received all of the facts, I then gained a clearer perspective on why APFA did what they did. I support their decision.
There were some back door negotiations by 2 TWA F/A's with their Congressman from Missouri. One of these F/A's is none other than the current SLT Chairperson, Tim Hunter. This was unbeknownst to APFA. In a nutshell, the Congressman then contacted Laura Glading and basically pushed her into a corner - either grant the remaining furloughs unlimited recall rights, or he would add an amendment to the FAA Authorization Bill granting the TWA F/A's their full seniority. Plain and simple, APFA was being blackmailed!
1. Can he legally do this? Yes - any Congressman or Senator can add any amendment to a bill.
2. Would it have passed? Who knows. This bill has been stalled in Congress for quite a while, and the Republicans are now threatening to strip all of the OSHA protection out of the current bill.
3. Why not call his bluff? This is where the real danger lies. I am not willing to put my members at risk - period. You also have to consider how this would have looked to other members in Congress if a Union was not willing to protect Union jobs. Ask yourselves this - If we do not obtain a contract, and it gets sent to a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), how do you think Congress would legislate our new contract? Say goodbye to your pension, your Retiree Medical Benefits, pay, work rules, etc. Why would Congress side with a Union that is not willing to protect jobs? You also have to look at what is going on in Wisconsin and Ohio - the mentality out there is to strip the Unions of all their power.
When you look at all of these things together, I for one am not willing to risk any of this and put APFA's membership in harm's way.
The vast majority of you are extremely frustrated not only with the company, but also with APFA. I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND! In trying to obtain a new contract, not only are we facing a company that is constantly dragging their feet, but we are now on our 4th Arbitrator at the National Mediation Board (NMB). That certainly has not helped our cause. Laura met with the 3 member Board at the NMB earlier last week. She plead our case, and from her statements to the BOD, she feels that the NMB has a much better understanding on where APFA stands, and how far the company is out of touch. We should be hearing soon on what the NMB's recommendations will be.
I have heard many comments lately on how the membership has lost complete faith in the Leadership at APFA. Not to get on my soap box, but I can personally tell you that Laura has worked tirelessly for the members at APFA. She understands your frustration and anger - most of us are at our rope's end - not only mentally, but also financially. Could communication from HDQ be better? Yes - and I will continue to do everything in my power to communicate any information that I know, and when I know it.
On a different note - It was also shared with us that AA is poised for some very strong growth in the not too distant future. And I am not talking about Eagle! I know that I, and all of you, are looking for some real movement. I feel that would help a lot with the extremely low morality that is present. Both Debbie Dent and I fight tooth-and-nail for ORD - we know the bidsheet sucks; we know Reserve sucks; we know the sit time sucks, etc. We would be remorse if we did not fight every day to improve the working lives of every ORD FA. We take that responsibility very seriously.
In closing, I want to personally thank each and every ORD Flight Attendant. Thank you for standing by Debbie and me. We both take extreme pride in representing you! And I will give you my personal guarantee that we will continue to do everything in our power to get you where you need to be.
What the BOD did was a very difficult decision for many of us. I personally confronted Tim Hunter upon arrival at the hotel on the morning of the 16th.. I walked up to him (with approximately 6 BOD witnesses), I pointed my finger at him and said, "I want to ask you a question and DON'T LIE TO ME. Have you or Dixie Daniels been in Washington, D.C. in Rep. Carnahan's office spearheading an effort to attach full TWA seniority restoral to the FAA re-authorization bill?" He said, "Spearheading? Uhhh...no I am not spearheading anything. Heidi, I have a full time day job that takes up most of my time and this is my night job. I don't have any time to go to Washington." I said, "Are you lying to me?" He said, "No. You believe me right?" I looked at him in the eyes and, perhaps with great naivety I refused to believe that someone could look at me point blank and lie so pathologically. He had even lied to his own VC about the same.
During the briefing Laura called him out. She said he was lying and that he had been in Sen Carnahan's office the previous Friday. She did not know about the conversation I had had with him) I leaned forward and asked if that was true. He admitted it was. At that point I made sure every member on the BOD know what he had said to me and that NOTHING he said could be trusted..
Basically Jay....he was trying to set us up and I refuse to believe, based on what I witnessed, that Laura was at all involved in his plan. He was voting NO to help make it fail but garnering the possible greater prize...seniority restoral. I do not believe Laura was conspiring with him. I believe her goal was in fact to extend recall rights and it got tangled up with his consistent 10 year goal of seniority restoral. There was just no way we could allow that risk to our native members.
Please remember....there are those of us who are radically opposed to any LOAs that help the company in any way during these protracted negotiations. I am one of those people. While on one hand I wish I could have stood my ground and maintained that principle I was not willing to risk our hard earned seniority and years of work for American Airlines. They have stated they will go to their grave fighting for their seniority but, unfortunately for them, there are those of us who will go to our graves defending the SIA.
This is my account Jay. Agree with it or not...Tim Hunter is leaving APFA office with WHIMPER instead of a BANG.
Heidi Morgan Prayon
Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:10 pm (PST)
I too feel the need to weigh in on this. As Heidi Prayon (DCA Base Chair) said, this was one of the most difficult and contentious votes many of the Board of Directors (your elected Base Chairs) have had to make. I believe everyone on the Board felt like they needed a hot shower and a stiff drink afterwards. And, we knew full well how the membership would view this if only looked at from the surface. Unpopular decisions are never easy for anyone.
As is the case, the LAX-I proffer was held up pending a resolution to this issue. AA needed speakers they didn't have. As a Board member and a voter on this resolution, I agree completely with what you have been told by the DCA Chair. And, I can assure everyone of you that every Base Chair's initial response to any Letter of Agreement (LOA) let alone the idea of a LOA to hire anyone off the street while there are still furloughs, without major company concessions and without the assurance of a contract, was initially a resounding "HELL NO" by everyone.
Then the other shoe dropped. As Heidi explains below, we find out that the current STL Base Chair, in his last ditch effort before leaving office in April, had been working behind the scenes in Washington DC with his Mo. Rep. Carnahan to get the Seniority Integration Agreement (SIA) added to the FAA Re-Authorization Bill. A Bill we need to Pass. Now instead of Laura getting a concession from the company on this speaker issue, she (WE) were basically blackmailed into finding a middle ground we could all live with. Much thought and a fiery debate ensued until we could all wrap our collective heads around the gravity of this situation and a suitable solution. Per Article 11 of the International Agreement I-11G "New Language" states: "... if there are insufficient foreign language qualified Flight Attendants in the International Operation, the company will proffer to the Domestic Flight Attendants the language examination to determine their language qualification for an International bid vacancy prior to "Hiring" employees who possess the foreign language qualification". They can also hire managers to be on the A/C like to Moscow. So they can get their speakers one way or another.
We have been assured that this SIA portion of the Bill has now been removed.. For it we get another 200 furloughs, the remainder with unlimited call back rights, like it or not, and we get on with the proffer. You can all thank Tim Hunter and his ex-TWA Coalition for this underhanded maneuver while he was a active APFA Representative and Base Chair. Trust me when I say I have never been one of Laura's favorite Board members. That being said, I do not believe she had anything harmful or underhanded to do with this debacle.. I, like the membership and many other Board members, am angry with the situation we are in with the contract. But, if the membership wants to be angry with an entity about this, they should be angry with this company for stiffing us the way they have and now using this opportunity to stick it to us again. I can say this is one time I was proud to be a part of a Board of Directors that worked so well together to come to an agreement on this.
This issue and the actions of the current STL Base Chair is not over. Mark my word, it will be a major conversation at the upcoming Board Meeting in March. It's easy to arm chair quarter-back, but when you are confronted with horrific choices that effect many people's lives in different ways, the right thing to do is sometimes the most difficult to explain.
SFO-I Base Chair