[Note: AFA International prepared the following information for AFA Alaska members regarding the Association’s seniority integration policy in a merger. Specifically, this addresses the proposed acquisition of Virgin America by Alaska Air Group and merger of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America under one operating certificate. –The AFA Alaska MEC]
June 24, 2016
AFA’s seniority integration process reflects:
- A commitment to ensure fairness with a “fair and equitable process” recognized by U.S. law,
- Our desire to promote unity,
- AFA’s decades of experience in promoting and protecting Flight Attendants’ interests in airline transactions.
The principle of ‘date-of-hire’ is codified in the AFA-CWA Constitution to integrate the list according to the schedule competitive bidding seniority that someone brought to the merger.
Page 1 of AFA-CWA Constitution & Bylaws, Article I.C.4. —
To promote the interest of the profession and to safeguard the rights, individually and collectively, of the members of the Union by ensuring that the “seniority date” of a flight attendant shall be the date from which each flight attendant accrues competitive (bidding) seniority as a flight attendant.
U.S. Law Requires Enforcement of AFA Seniority Integration Policy
AFA’s seniority policy is also reinforced by US law. After the TWA Flight Attendants were stapled to the bottom of the seniority list at American, our union advocated for a change to the law that would provide a “fair and equitable” seniority integration for all airline workers affected by a merger. Again, fair and equitable is a process, but it does not ensure a “fair” outcome.
If seniority is left up to an arbitrator, all arguments and positions made by the parties involved will eventually be decided by someone who has no claim or stake in the end result. That is why we ensured that the law would also protect our union’s seniority integration policy. The McCaskill-Bond law states:
“if the same collective bargaining agent represents the combining crafts or classes at each of the covered air carriers, that collective bargaining agent’s internal policies regarding integration, if any, will not be affected by and will supersede the requirements of this section;”
This law affirms that our AFA seniority integration policy is the process that must be used when AFA is the representative of Flight Attendants at the merged airline.
‘Date-of-Hire’ Principle Used, ‘Bidding Seniority’ Actual Term
Section X.C.2.a.(2). of the AFA-CWA C&B ensures that, “…the ‘seniority date’ of a Flight Attendant shall be the date from which each Flight Attendant accrues competitive (bidding) seniority as a Flight Attendant as of the date of the merger agreement between the affected airlines.” The term “date-of-hire” is common terminology among Flight Attendants and is the principle contained within the C&B. This term describes our principle but not the actual wording that refers to bidding seniority.
When Does the Process of Seniority Integration Take Place?
Once there is a “reasonable probability that the [operational] merger will be consummated” (Section X.C.2.i.), the NMB determines the merger has resulted in a single carrier for purposes of representation and AFA is certified as the representative of the combined Flight Attendant group, the AFA-CWA Seniority Integration process begins, Section X, pages 123-127.
The Seniority Merger Integration Committee – Merger Representatives
The Alaska MEC has installed its two Merger Representatives. Upon certification of AFA as the bargaining representative for Virgin America Flight Attendants, the timelines of Section 10.C. shall apply. Virgin America leaders will select their two Merger Representatives within 30 days and a training at the AFA-CWA International Office shall be scheduled for all Merger Representatives, the full Seniority Merger Integration Committee (SMIC), and the seniority list work will begin.
The SMIC consists of representatives from each pre-merger airline. The AFA-CWA Constitution and Bylaws (C&B), which is also reinforced by U.S. law, provides clear instruction on the committee role and authority in merging the seniority lists.
These representatives are responsible for:
- compiling the necessary employment data for all Flight Attendants from their respective airlines, and
- working as a full committee to compile a single Flight Attendant seniority list.
In terms of compiling the single seniority list, the only two (2) items constitutionally required for resolution by the committee include:
- applying credit for initial training while maintaining relative seniority on each respective list, and
- methodology for integration of same day seniority dates.
In every case, per Section X.C.3.c.(4) of the C&B “the relative position of the flight attendants on their respective seniority lists shall be maintained and the merger representatives shall not have the authority to alter the relative position of any flight attendant to others on her/his own list for any reason.” In other words, the existing order or placement on each respective list must remain the same, i.e., no one “leap-frogs” over another.
Prior Integrations, Contractual Requirements and Training Days
The SMIC may not alter former seniority integrations. Prior decisions are binding upon the Union. In addition, the terms of the contract cannot be altered in this process. The AFA Seniority Merger Integration Process does not provide for adjustments to seniority dates that should otherwise be handled through a grievance.
The C&B strictly prohibits changes, other than to adjust for initial Flight Attendant training. Section X.C.3.c.(1) of the C&B states, “the only adjustment to seniority date as defined in Section X.C.2.a., being reconciliation of differences in policies on the respective carriers relating to seniority accrual for training days so that each Flight Attendant on the merged seniority list receives credit for her/his training days.”
AFA Seniority Integration Policy Used in Mega-Mergers
In both the Delta and American mergers, AFA’s merger policy set the standard for Flight Attendant seniority integration. At Delta, management knew that Flight Attendants would have one more big reason to vote for a union unless management provided the same seniority security that AFA’s policy would provide. The Northwest and Delta lists were integrated according to AFA’s seniority integration principle.
AFA had the cleanest seniority list in the industry at US Airways, where many mergers took place based on AFA’s seniority integration principle. Further, our union had gained seniority protections under the law. In the American merger, APFA agreed to a seniority integration that mirrors AFA’s constitutional merger policy, protecting both pre-merger US Airways and American Flight Attendants.
In these examples, AFA’s policy drove the process used even when AFA was not the surviving union. The difference in the Alaska/Virgin America merger is that AFA will be the surviving union. When AFA is the surviving representative there is no question: the AFA Seniority Integration Policy is used and required by U.S. law.
In the United/Continental/Continental Micronesia merger, the AFA-CWA Seniority Integration Policy is enforced since AFA is the surviving union following a representation election. That seniority integration process is complete and the Merger Representatives from each pre-merger airline simply continue their collective SMIC work to confirm the employment data of new hires and update the list based on retirements, etc. The integrated list becomes effective upon ratification of a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Recognition of Every Flight Attendant – Unity is What We Need
Our merger policy was put in place nearly 30 years ago following mergers where the issue of seniority did nothing more than create division. This division plays out at a time when it is especially critical for Flight Attendants to stand together in unity. In mergers, our focus needs to be on making our seniority count with the best job security, pay, benefits, work rules and quality of life at the merged airline. Our policy provides a defined and transparent procedure for seniority integration.
The fate of our seniority should never hinge on a corporate decision that is outside of our control. With a detailed process in black and white we can focus our attention on our unity and work towards a single contract that reflects our valuable contributions to the airline.