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.
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.
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?