May 14, 2013
[Correction to yesterdays’ communication: We incorrectly reported that ALPA has reached a tentative agreement (TA) with management. In fact it is still an “agreement in concept” (AIC) and will not be an actual TA until the ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) receives a full-text proposal and votes to convert the AIC to a TA. Once that happens, there will be roadshows and the TA will be sent out for membership ratification. The fact of the matter is that ALPA very nearly has a TA, which does not substantially change our message. However, we have corrected the original negotiations update to reflect all the facts as we know them. You may read the revised version here: http://alaskamec.org/latest-news/negotiations-update-may-13-2013-alpa-almost-has-a-ta-why-not-afa/. We regret the error.]
Dear Flight Attendants,
This is the second installment in a series of negotiations updates this week. Today we’re going to talk about management communications and direct dealing during negotiations. What is direct dealing? Direct dealing occurs when an employer communicates directly with union-represented employees, without the benefit of union representation, for the purpose of changing wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment. So what does that mean, in plain English? Direct dealing is when an employer circumvents the union to directly engage a union employee regarding negotiations-related topics with the intent to make changes to the collective bargaining agreement as result of that transaction or conversation. (Okay, well maybe that wasn’t exactly plain English but at least it was stated in different words!)
Why would AFA be concerned about direct dealing? Well, frankly because an employer is legally prohibited from engaging in such activity and to do so would be an unfair labor practice and a violation of good faith bargaining. Serious stuff!
What constitutes direct dealing? It’s definitely not as simple as saying that an employer cannot communicate with an employee about negotiations because that is not true. It is true that AFA would prefer to exclusively control the message to our members regarding negotiations but legally we cannot force this outside of a protocol agreement. Such an agreement would require both parties to agree to the terms and conditions.
When Vice President of Labor Relations Shane Tackett sent a letter to your homes back in November 2011 in conjunction with the exchange of opening proposals, we weren’t thrilled because something like that hadn’t exactly been done before. Beyond the fact that management put a negotiations communication directly into your homes, we took particular exception to several of the announcements in the letter. First, there was the “Negotiations” tab on the Inflight web page. Remember the “googly eyes” saying “Look here!”? We thought it was bothersome that our Flight Attendants would be forced to see the googly eyes every time they logged into Inflight. (Thank goodness the googly eyes have since been removed!)
Management also announced the ability to sign up for negotiations email updates. That was potentially even more insidious because AFA didn’t know exactly what kind of information management wanted to email or what sort of response they wanted back. Although the “Sign up here” link is still there to this day, it seems it has never been activated. That or else everybody we’ve ever had log into the web page is blocked because we have all received the same error message: “You must be granted right to access this page.” If somebody has been successful, we would like to know!
Then there were the “Grab ‘n Go” recaps that appear both in print and archived under the Negotiations tab. It was particularly irritating to us that these started being printed on the same color of yellow paper as the AFA VOICE updates. Please note that this is the same color of paper we’ve been using for VOICE communications for many years—not just this round of negotiations! It was almost as if management were purposefully trying to confuse Flight Attendants into thinking that these were official AFA updates or that they were sanctioned as a joint communication. Be assured this is absolutely not the case!
Now, the MEC, the Negotiating Committee and the VOICE chairs have definitely talked about changing the color of our printed updates. Maybe we will at a later date to make a point, but for now we don’t want to reward their bad behavior by letting them chase us around the colors of the rainbow. In fact, we’ll accept that management is paying AFA a compliment—they say imitation is the highest form of flattery! Maybe management thinks that by printing their communications on the “VOICE yellow” that it will carry more weight with the Flight Attendants. Who knows their motivations on this one?!
Besides, the reality is that AFA doesn’t have the exclusive rights to that color and we just purchased a fairly large quantity of yellow paper in order to receive a discount and keep our printing costs down. The AFA Alaska MEC always has an eye on fiscal responsibility and spending our members’ dues money wisely. Therefore we’ll probably deplete our stock before we revisit the color palette. The point: be aware the Grab ‘n Go is a management communication no matter what color paper it might be printed on.
We know this update is long, so let’s try to take it home. It is no secret that Andy has definitely ramped up her communications to you regarding negotiations—especially now that AFA filed for mediation. In several of the more recent communications she has invited you to direct questions about negotiations and now mediation to her and/or other Inflight managers and supervisors. Up to this point several aspects of management’s communication strategy have been relatively minor annoyances but this is where AFA is going to draw the line! AFA has asked Alaska Airlines management on several occasions recently to cease and desist soliciting for feedback from Flight Attendants regarding negotiations. So far management believes they are within their rights to answer questions regarding proposals and the negotiations process.
AFA is extremely concerned that sometime somewhere somebody in Inflight management is going to (perhaps inadvertently?) step over the line and solicit a Flight Attendant’s opinion regarding a proposal or attempt to sway the Flight Attendant regarding a particular position. This would indeed constitute direct dealing! We’ve given management ample opportunities to see the light, so we’re done asking nicely. Effective immediately AFA will be keeping track of every and all conversations between Flight Attendants and management regarding negotiations beyond the answering of simple questions. Please send all such records of conversation to firstname.lastname@example.org. AFA has made it crystal clear to management that we believe they are playing with fire by inviting open communication between supervisors and Flight Attendants regarding negotiations. Consequently if management refuses to heed our warning and alter their course, AFA will not hesitate to take violations to the next level!
Ideally, however, it would be fantastic if all Flight Attendants would voluntarily cease talking to management altogether about negotiations unless AFA asks you to pursue a specific solidarity action. Our Flight Attendants need to know and repeat only one phrase: “My Negotiating Committee speaks for me!” We cannot stress this enough. We know for a fact that an individual Flight Attendant (who will remain nameless) was in direct communication with Andy Schneider and happened to mention a specific bargaining objective. Although it may be a coincidence, that exact objective was reflected in management’s latest off-the-record proposal. Not good!
The point here is that you may not intend to give ideas to management by engaging them in conversations regarding negotiations, but it could easily happen. This makes the Negotiating Committee’s job that much harder because management needs to be listening only to us as your legally-sanctioned bargaining representatives. You absolutely must trust in the process and in your Negotiating Committee! Remember that you will have to opportunity to wield your vote to ratify or reject the tentative agreement, but that in the meantime we need you to support the Negotiating Committee by living the phrase: “My Negotiating Committee speaks for me!”
The next negotiations session is scheduled for July 8-11, location TBD but either in Los Angeles or Seattle. AFA will be engaging in informational leafleting and picketing at the Alaska Air Group (AAG) Shareholders meeting beginning at 1pm on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at the Bell Harbor Conference Center, Alaskan Way, Pier 66, Seattle, WA 98121 (http://www.bellharbor.com/). More information about negotiations and the upcoming event will be out in the coming days. Also, check out the new AFA Alaska MEC website at www.alaskamec.org.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Terry Taylor, Yvette Gesch, Melanie Buker, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn and Sandra Morrow
Your Negotiating Committee – MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Tracy, Karina Cameron-Fetters, Jake Jones and AFA Staff Negotiator Paula Mastrangelo
“Five Bases, One Voice”
Negotiations Update May 13, 2013: ALPA Nearly Has a TA—Why Not AFA?: http://alaskamec.org/latest-news/negotiations-update-may-13-2013-alpa-almost-has-a-ta-why-not-afa/
Vice President of Labor Relations Shane Tackett’s November 30, 2011, letter to flight attendants: http://asainflight.alaskaair.com/Inflt_Trng_Toolbox/Inflt_Page2/FA_Intro.pdf