There have been concerns raised to your Master Executive Council (MEC) leadership about what exactly the acquisition of Virgin America by Alaska Air Group and the subsequent merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will mean for the AFA Alaska contract. Specifically, the question on the minds of many: If the Virgin America In-flight Teammates (ITMs) ratify a second tentative agreement between the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) (the union representing the ITMs) and Alaska Airlines management, will our joint contract negotiations result in a deterioration of the “legacy Alaska” compensation and/or work rules? These concerns have been brought about by a recent communication from Alaska Airlines management to the Virgin America ITMs that hints an impending second tentative agreement (TA) and provides management’s perspective regarding the TA.
Be assured our bargaining objectives will not be negatively affected if the Virgin America (VX) ITMs have a contract, because the “floor” for our talks will be the AFA Alaska contract. In our preliminary discussions so far, Alaska Airlines management has indicated they want to simply assimilate the Virgin America ITMs into our contract with minimal or no changes. It is clear from executive management on down that they are not expecting to “negotiate” any changes to the AFA Alaska contract.
For example, check out the video of the Alaska and Virgin America Day One Town Hall in which MEC President Jeff Peterson asks Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden about expectations related to the merger for enriching the Alaska labor group contracts. The video can be accessed by going to “AS+VX Day 1 roundup: Photos, videos and celebration” on Alaskasworld.com (login required), scrolling down to “Employee and teammate town hall” and clicking on the link to the full version of the town hall. Jeff’s question is found between 51:15 and 52:00 and Brad’s answer is between 52:00 and 53:15.
In spite of this prevailing opinion amongst management, we have indicated there must be improvements for the Alaska Flight Attendants as well as for the Virgin America ITMs. The recent communication from Alaska Airlines management to the VX ITMs spoke of them getting the AFA Alaska pay and work rules, not lesser ones. Management also referred to our contract as “industry leading.”
Certainly, management recognizes there is no going backwards. We all want make this merger a success. Undermining the pay, protections and benefits in our contract would be a disastrous for the merger. Finally, all AFA Alaska and AFA Virgin America members in good standing (dues current) will get to vote on the joint contract, so we are going to move forward in solidarity to improve the legacy Alaska contract.
Beyond providing this information to our membership, it is important that AFA Alaska does not speculate any further on TWU VX’s ratification process and how it may affect the merger of our groups. The VX ITMs should have the space to take part in their democratic vote without influence or interference from anyone, including us. The MEC encourages the VX ITMs to talk to their TWU leadership for any specific concerns or questions regarding their contract negotiations.
Until the NMB makes the determination that AFA is the representing union for Virgin America, the MEC affirms the right of TWU VX to achieve a historic first contract. As a reminder, AFA filed for single carrier status with the NMB on January 5, 2017. AFA looks forward to representing the Virgin America ITMs in the near future!
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Linda Christou, Lisa Pinkston, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn, Tim Green and Brice McGee