American Flight Attendants Reject New Contract

The first work group that the “new” American has attempted to create a single contract for have been the flight attendants. The proposed agreement was industry-leading in many ways.

While the union acknowledged that it wasn’t perfect (not that any contract ever will be), they also explained that it’s as good as it gets. Here’s what they told their members, via Dallas News:

Eight months ago, our Joint Negotiating Committee came together with the difficult task of blending two contracts, two distinct cultures, and two very different operations. Comprised of seven LAA and seven LUS Flight Attendants, our team forged a strong unity as we worked through our differences. Together, we reached an agreement which will benefit all 24,500 Flight Attendants at the New American Airlines.

For five intense months of negotiations, our JNC confronted management against a backstop of binding arbitration. Our team squeezed every possible dollar from this company, compromised only when absolutely necessary, and achieved the best contract possible. We have no doubt that ratification of this Tentative Agreement is the best course for Flight Attendants at the New American Airlines.

Rumors abound that there will be more negotiations or that by voting No we can miraculously retain profit sharing or somehow force the Company to abandon the implementation of a single medical plan for 120,000 employees at the New American. As the Flight Attendants directly involved in bargaining we can tell you this is not the case. Voting No will simply result in at least $82 million annually in cuts to the T/A. The arbitration will focus on whether the cuts should come out of areas such as wages, vacation days or 401(k) contributions. That is a predicament we strongly urge you to avoid.

This is an industry-leading agreement in pay provisions and work rules. We are not asking that you agree with every single provision of this T/A. Rather, we ask you to focus on the key question we had to constantly ask ourselves during these negotiations: whether this Tentative Agreement is better than the alternative of binding arbitration? Here we believe there is no room for doubt.

The flight attendant contract was rejected

Voting just wrapped up, and the flight attendants rejected the contract… by 16 votes! 8,180 flight attendants voted in favor of the contract, while 8,196 voted against the contract. For what it’s worth, the contract was more favored by US Airways employees (~54% voted in favor) than by American employees (~48% voted in favor). Here are the ballot results by base.

APFA-Contract

The voting patterns by base are fascinating. At the St. Louis base only ~14% of American flight attendants voted in favor of the contract, while at the Los Angeles International base, ~66% of American flight attendants voted in favor of the contract.

Why flight attendants shouldn’t have turned this down

Usually I stay out of union politics and wouldn’t take a strong stand one way or another, but in this case the facts are very simple. The rejected contract included $193 million in yearly increases, while the contract is now going to arbitration… where the increases over the existing contract are capped at $111 million. Even the union acknowledged that.

Why did flight attendants turn down $82 million per year?

So what am I missing here? Why on earth would they turn down a $193 million “raise,” when the contract now goes to arbitration, where it’s capped at a $111 million “raise?”

The airliners.net thread on the vote actually has some interesting insight into the screwed up thought process of some flight attendants when it comes to this.

User flyfree727 claims to be an American flight attendant that voted against it. S/he seems convinced that they’re gong to mediation before arbitration:

circulated by? oh.. the APFA and the company.. gotcha.
before “arbitration” results can be announced, there is mediation.. don’t rush…

When someone calls him/her out on it, apparently since $111 million is the worst case scenario (when it’s in fact the best case scenario), it “aint too shabby” anymore (but $193 million apparently isn’t good enough to vote in favor of):

At worst case, the agreement gains $111 Million.. this was NOT a vote on a concessionary contract. $111 mil aint too shabby.

Said poster also seems to be convinced that they’ll get better than an industry leading contract because American is projected to make $10 billion in two years:

The vote is over.. I won’t banter.. But, in two years we could have made what we were making OVER a decade ago. In two years, AA is projected to make 10 billion.. I won’t settle. I’ll tell you what voters during the LBFO told me.. If you don’t like it, you have a choice. Suck it up.

Right, because the judge will surely double their pay on top of an industry leading wage because apparently American is projected to make $10 billion in two years. Seriously? I mean, the airline industry is so stable and consistently so profitable… how could the judge not?!

Meanwhile a much more reasonable flight attendant, ozark1, responds to flyfree727, with the following:

If you are an AA flight attendant, as I am, you are a perfect representative of the side that voted against. There is NO mediation. ZIP. ZILCH. ZERO. Instead of being paid the highest wages, getting an additional week of vacation, being paid more to work the first class cabin, receiving holiday pay..i could go on and on….you choose to make it a crapshoot with our careers and let a judge, who has no knowledge of our work rules, decide our future. In two years we could have made $63 an hour. Yep that’s right. I am completely perplexed and completely amazed that so many people are living on another planet. Reality has changed folks. You have been duped by Facebook and it is an enormous tragedy.

Bottom line

Usually I don’t read too much into airline union votes, because I can see both sides. In this case it seems to me like there was only one right way to vote. I get there are some crazy people out there that “won’t settle,” but that’s not the case here… over 50% of American’s flight attendant workforce voted against the contract!

I have several American flight attendant friends that are rather pissed off tonight at how their colleagues voted.

Since this is going to arbitration, presumably they won’t legally be allowed to strike. Let’s hope they don’t do what the pilots did a couple of years back, when they strategically no showed and delayed flights to cause as much operational damage as possible.

Is there another side to this that I’m missing? Can any “no” voters chime in on what they see as the best case scenario here?

Comments

  1. Didn’t the AA FAs and Pilots reach an agreement with Doug prior to the merger? And didn’t they say that everything would be all to their benefit and awesome — which is why they encouraged the merger? Where is that article to insure I have my facts straight?

  2. This is hilarious! šŸ˜€ The AA unions jumped in bed with Dougie because of their irrational hatred of the pmAA management, and now it’s coming back to bite them in the rear!

  3. Or you could work at Delta and just avoid all of this mess! šŸ™‚

    Just fascinating that it was voted down by only 16 votes! Unreal. I bet the union leadership is just sick to their stomach with it having been so close.

  4. Human nature, who’d a thunk it. Selfish, irrational, and ultimately seemingly self-destructive.

    I like reading your blog Ben. You provide useful information for folks like me who are trying to get through life with as little pain as possible; and enjoy Krug. I’m assuming we both are putting a lot of thought into what we’re doing and why, and hence have a tendency not to judge others.

    The problems of the world are manifest, and those of us who have access to a free press, and use it, as bloggers or commenters, and who have more freedom of choice than most of humanity can only dream of, must I think, pause before judging others in print.

    For someone who makes a living flying around the world endlessly to no good end, but for his own pleasure and a blog post, I’d advise hesitation before critiquing others who provide the service upon which that very living depends.

    Environmentally, your chosen profession is close to the most destructive to the planet and to the future of humanity that I can imagine. I don’t mean to be harsh, but would you disagree ?

    You provide a somewhat useful service to people like myself, who too are hurtling selfishly toward oblivion. But I’d personally prefer you’d refrain from critising those who make it possible. Besides, it’s so uncouth…don’t descend into that hell known as FlyerTalk ! It’s why I read you blog in the first place, it’s so positive and upbeat !

    AA is, in my humble opinion, by far the best legacy US domestic airline currently in operation. My experience is mostly flying up and down the west coast, my base being SFO. All the operations staff in SFO and LAX, particularly the Admirals Club in SFO, are pretty much great.
    Hopefully the FAs as a whole have made the right choice and it will work out. But not knowing the corporate culture there and all the dynamics, I’ll support them through the process without criticism until it’s resolved. It’s the least I can do after all the great service they have provided me over the years.

    Kind regards,

    Tom.

  5. “For five intense months of negotiations, our JNC confronted management against a backstop of binding arbitration. ”

    This type of communication seems to only put a wedge between management and “us.” As if to say we had to make them give us this contract, which leads people to believe that if you try harder you can get more.
    AA flight attendants wanted this merger more than any other workgroup, it’s time to start acting like adults and realize you can’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars being a flight attendant. When I was at headquarters coworkers in managemnt started believing there was no way to make that work group happy. It just became a joke. Everyone makes career choices and at a certain point a person has to realize there is a max pay and not everyone can be the CEO. They need to grow up.

  6. I think the one FA comment gives a pretty good idea why many voted this way: “But, in two years we could have made what we were making OVER a decade ago.”
    Many FA at AA ( and UA and other legacy carriers) are, understandably, still bitter that they lost a lot of income and perks over the years. Some realize that that is just how times have changed and they are still better off than for example switching to Southwest. Some still expect/hope that things will go back to the way they were…. resulting in what seems like an irrational vote to me…

  7. @Tom ā€“ I do not take Benā€™s comments on this matter as ā€œjudgingā€ or ā€œcritisingā€ [sic] those who make his travels possible. We, the travelers, make our trips possible by paying for (or earning) those trips, which results in jobs creation. Contrary to your impression, I took Benā€™s comments on this as him being somewhat concerned for the FA and is contemplating if they may in fact be get a worse outcome than what they had hoped for by voting down this T/A – which could also affect travelers in various aspects down the road. His post is perfectly reasonable and salient.

  8. @BHill @Lucky

    I re-read the whole post again and I agree with you regarding Ben’s concern.
    Ben, I apologize, please take down my comment.

    Tom.

  9. Tom,

    How exactly does Ben’s flying differ from anyone else’s? He flies for his profession as do millions of others. As to “no good end” I am assuming that all of your flying is done to provide humanitarian aid in places where there is no person in that location that could provide it, even if you wired them the funds.

    “Kind regards”,
    Eric

  10. @Erik @Lucky

    Eric, or Erik, yes I agree with you. It was an ill considered comment/post.

    Ben, again, I apologize. I didn’t think it through very well. Probably best if you could take down my comment.

  11. Happy FAs = Happy travels. This will lead to more unhappy FAs, which mean less pleasant flights for us. Dummkopfs.

  12. Others have covered a number of details that are quite interesting and I won’t retreat that ground. The piece that I found fascinating is that in an election split by 16 votes (a bit under .1% of the total votes), 851 votes were invalidated. I have no idea how a simple ‘yes/no’ is invalidated, but that seems like a HUGE range (around 5% of total votes) considering the final tally. Perhaps some of those votes are things like the phone cutout and the vote couldn’t finish or the website timed out or something and that person ended up voting again later and their vote actually counted, but seeing potentially a large multiple of the spread in ‘invalid votes’ seems like a problem (and not one that I necessarily know the answer for other than to make certain votes can’t go invalid in the future)

  13. @Ivan – Supreme Court! šŸ™‚ Seriously though, there’s a solid chance that the invalidated votes would have swung the vote (or given a more definitive margin of victory at least). 5% seems like a huge number for electronic voting means (i.e. no hanging chads, no fouled ballots, etc).

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