Merger Negotiations Protocol Agreement meeting
Your AFA Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) members, Jennifer Wise MacColl, Lindsey Steele and MEC President Jeff Peterson, met with Vice President of Inflight Services Andy Schneider and Managing Director of Labor Relations Elizabeth Ryan on February 15, 2017, at the Doubletree Seattle Airport to discuss a merger negotiations protocol agreement. AFA Senior Staff Attorney and Negotiator Kimberley Chaput filled in for our regular professional negotiator, Paula Mastrangelo, who had a scheduling conflict. A merger negotiations protocol agreement essentially sets the framework for merger negotiations, covering such items as frequency and location of meetings, table etiquette and expectations and how Alaska and Virgin America would operate until we have a joint agreement.
AFA had drafted the protocol agreement in advance of the session. Management reviewed it and prior to the meeting told us that they did not have any noteworthy concerns besides the references to a “joint collective-bargaining agreement.” We arrived at the session anticipating that it would merely consist of finding a mutually agreeable alternative term, signing the document and discussing any new information about the merger.
Dispute over each party’s understanding of their respective obligation to bargain
However, management presented AFA with a revised draft protocol agreement containing language that led to a discussion about each party’s understanding of their respective obligation to bargain and the scope of such bargaining. Management’s primary claim is they are not contractually obligated to negotiate a joint collective-bargaining agreement (JCBA). It is clear from the session that management wants to negotiate solely on the mechanics of bringing the Virgin America Inflight Teammates (ITMs) under our current agreement and nothing more. Management’s position at the table also echoes previous statements that executive management has made on the subject. Our position is that we are putting together two work groups and need to reach agreement on all topics. AFA has indicated to management and in previous membership releases that there must be improvements for the Alaska Flight Attendants as well as for the Virgin America ITMs.
When pressed for justification, management cited a federal circuit court case to support their position, but AFA’s reading of the case indicates that it actually supports our position there is a duty to bargain. Moreover, management claims that since Alaska is the surviving carrier and not a successor, CBA §4.C [Status of Agreement: Labor Protective Provisions], which sets forth the obligation to bargain, does not apply. The parties reached a temporary stalemate of sorts, so AFA agreed to further review related case law and precedent prior to the parties reconnecting to determine next steps.
Differing bargaining objectives
AFA and Alaska Legal have since had an opportunity to discuss the dispute. From the preliminary conversations we have had so far, it is becoming obvious the parties do not agree on our respective bargaining objectives. However, management acknowledges that we have to negotiate some kind of merger agreement–although what exactly that might look like remains to be seen.
Merger negotiations will not begin until well after the NMB’s decision on single-carrier status and representation
Keep in mind that actual merger negotiations will not begin until well after the National Mediation Board (NMB) issues a decision on single-carrier status and representation. AFA does not know exactly when that will be, but we are anticipating a ruling in the next few months. Once that occurs, AFA will move forward to the next steps in the process. Just one example of many: We will eventually add representation from the Virgin America ITMs to the JNC.
AFA and management are currently discussing how to get the protocol agreement back on track, and AFA will continue to update you on our progress.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Linda Christou, Lisa Pinkston, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn, Tim Green and Brice McGee
Your Joint Negotiating Committee – MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Jennifer Wise MacColl, Lindsey Steele and AFA Senior Staff Attorney Kimberley Chaput (substituting for AFA Senior Staff Negotiator Paula Mastrangelo)