Our Contract ... What Contract???

Flight Attendants Work under a Side Letter of Agreement, not a Contract

Gerard Arpey looks like the cat who just caught the bird. Here he's gutted the labor contracts and now the unions are helping him promote the underfunding of American's pension plans to Congress. Tommie Hutto-Blake is to the right.

One of our biggest concerns as we head into bankruptcy is the fact that flight attendants work under a Side Letter of a Agreement rather than a contract. This side letter of agreement, referred to as the 2003 AA/APFA Restructuring Participation Agreement (RPA), can be amended with a majority vote of the APFA Board of Directors and does not require membership ratification or approval. Simply put, we are heading into bankruptcy with virtually no protections other than the union leaderships' assertion that they'll protect our interests. This is a recipe for disaster.

The reason we spent eight years fighting to overturn the 2003 Restructuring Agreement was because of the dangers it posed by it's mere existence. It's like Pandora's box: once opened, if not shut, there'll be no shutting it because the precedence has been set. We fought desperately to close that box but unfortunately the last three union presidents ALL sided with AMR against flight attendants. While AMR was doling our hundreds upon hundreds of millions in bonuses to executives, APFA was spending millions in membership dues defending AMR in Federal Court.

Can you see the conflict here?

But it didn't just end there. The givebacks continued and have so to this very day. As the photo to the right clearly shows, our last union president was assisting our now retired CEO, Gerard Arpey, in his quest to be able to underfund our pension plan as a means of protecting it. Think about it, if the goal was to protect the pension plan, wouldn't it be better to overfund it or simply properly fund it?

APFA President Laura Glading with American Airlines VP of Flight Service Denise Lynn at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, APFA opted to forfeit manning positions on the MD 80, 737, 757 and 767 as part of the 737 Settlement. They did this knowing that there were thousands on furlough. In return, we got eight hours behind the door and crew meals on flights to Delhi and Shanghai. Those flight attendants who filed the 737 grievances weren't even compensated. They got nothing. Six months later, AMR doled out $70 million in bonuses to executives.

To bring us up to the present, the givebacks continue. We have the Mandarin Side Letter, which allowed American to hire and employee new-hire speakers before recalling those who ave been on furlough for eight years. Honestly, what's the point of seniority if your union allows the company to bypass it? This side letter has so many stories surrounding it that it's hard to get to the truth as to how it came about. While Laura Glading took credit for Side Letter during her base visits, three board members told members that the union was blackmailed by a congressman from Missouri. Regardless of how it came about, few members were happy about the Side Letter.

We also have the Antitrust Immunity Endorsement APFA gave to AMR so that American could enter into joint business relationships with overseas carrier. sNow that we're in bankruptcy, American can fall back on their joint business relationships and use them against employees by threatening them with job loss that won't impact US travel, shareholders or creditors. This is why APA President Lloyd Hill adamantly opposed endorsing antitrust immunity. As Tulas World reported:

Executives of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 11,500 American pilots, said they are concerned about job losses should American receive antitrust immunity to coordinate routes and scheduling with foreign airlines. American applied to the Department of Transportation in August 2008 for worldwide antitrust immunity for business agreements with British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Royal Jordanian.

"We have serious concerns about the impact on hard-working Americans when global airline alliances receive antitrust immunity," APA President Lloyd Hill said. "These capacity-sharing arrangements are a form of industry consolidation whose likely net effect is fewer U.S. jobs. It's only logical that when companies cooperate and consolidate, some jobs become redundant.

"Furthermore, because antitrust immunity is inherently anti-competitive, travelers are left with fewer choices and higher prices."

So why did APFA offer up the union's antitrust endorsement in direct opposition to the pilots? More importantly, why did APFA offer it up for FREE?

From what I can gather, APFA's antitrust immunity endorsement wasn't approved by the APFA Board of Directors. I see no resolution authorizing the president to endorse it. This can only suggest that the endorsement was offered up single-handedly.

From their 2008 campaign, APFA Vice-President Brett Durkin and APFA President Laura Glading demonstrating how to sign a Side Letter of Agreement .

We have some serious problems facing us and we better starting preparing ourselves for them. Understanding that Laura Glading was the Appointed Negotiator in 2003, in charge of negotiating the 2003 Restructuring Agreement, the idea that Ms. Glading could be negotiating for us again in bankruptcy should be a concern to all.

This election needs to be resovled in the Primary, not the Runoff. This will only prolong our union's ability to prepare itself.

We have a team of professionals ready to get to work. We need to protect what we have and we need to start preparing for what's coming.