The AFA Alaska-Virgin America Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) just wrapped up this week’s session of merger negotiations, our third so far; we met with management from Tuesday, September 12th through Thursday, September 14th in Seattle, WA. Representing management: Vice President of Labor Relations Greg Mays, Incoming Vice President of Alaska Airlines Inflight & Call Center Services Jeff Butler (and current Vice President of Virgin America Guest and Inflight Services), Managing Director of Labor Relations-Air Elizabeth Ryan, Managing Director of Virgin America Inflight Valerie Jenkins and Virgin America Manager of Labor Emily Kimmel.
The Joint Negotiating Committee continues to discuss transition issues with management The JNC’s goal is to make a smooth and equitable transition for the Virgin America Flight Attendants to the Alaska contract. Meanwhile, the JNC continues to maintain that some improvements to the Alaska contract must be part of the package.
Despite our insistence, management has made it very clear that it does not believe AFA has the contractual standing to seek improvements. Our counterpoint to that argument is that a merger agreement requires membership ratification under the AFA Constitution & Bylaws, and the JNC strongly believes any merger agreement that lacks improvements for our combined membership (pre-merger Virgin America and pre-merger Alaska) is not ratifiable. The parties continue to work through purely transitional items for now, but at some point in the future we will be forced to deal with the proverbial elephant in the room.
During the session, the parties exchanged written proposals on how to transition the Virgin America Flight Attendants into the Alaska Attendance Policy, sick leave, vacation, probation and leaves of absence. The parties also discussed uniform transition. Management committed to giving the JNC a comprehensive proposal on all transition issues at our next session, September 26-28.
The Joint Negotiating Committee is planning on soliciting your feedback regarding your expectations for these negotiations. Be on the lookout for more information about the merger negotiations survey in the next several weeks.
Keep in mind that merger negotiations are a different process than regular negotiations. These talks are not under the jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board or Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, and neither side believes that the entire contract is open for discussion. Discussions are focusing on a short list of items. All the provisions in the AFA Alaska contract (scheduled pay raises, etc.) will continue in force for pre-merger Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants; all the provisions in the Virgin America work rules will remain in effect for pre-merger Virgin America Flight Attendants unless modified and/or superseded by the AFA Virgin America letters of agreement.
Your JNC – MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Jennifer Wise MacColl, Jamie Cogen, Lindsey Steele and AFA Senior Staff Negotiator Paula Mastrangelo