Dear Flight Attendants,
Management has confirmed the upcoming Town Hall meetings in March through at least mid-April are being canceled and rescheduled for later dates. This affects meetings already scheduled in Portland, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Anchorage, with one as soon as this coming Tuesday. Please check First Class for Vice President of Inflight Services Andy Schneider’s March 15th edition of “What’s Happening” for further information.
During the Master Executive Council (MEC) meeting this week, your MEC officers explained to management that our members are not pleased these meetings were going forward on the heels of a failed tentative agreement (TA). We explained the group is frustrated, with many believing management would use the Town Hall meetings as a fact-finding mission for negotiations. This was particularly troubling considering AFA had not even had an opportunity to put out a follow-up survey.
The MEC also reminded management that we have two councils in the midst of officer elections: Councils 19 Seattle and 39 Portland. In our estimation, the Town Hall meetings would have created unnecessary angst amongst the Flight Attendants. Because of where we are with negotiations and the officer elections, the timing simply wasn’t right so we strongly advocated to management to reconsider the Town Hall meetings.
The MEC informed management that we would prefer delaying the Town Hall meetings altogether until a ratified collective bargaining agreement is in place. However, management is very interested in taking action to correct areas of concern that were in the latest employee survey. Management recently shared the detailed results of the survey with AFA leadership and we can verify there were some areas needing improvement.
Inflight management would like to improve the lines of communication and to establish renewed trust with Flight Attendants. At our meeting with management, the MEC expressed that a ratified agreement is critical to laying that foundation. Management explained they cannot wait to do something until after a TA is reached because of the uncertain time frame of contract negotiations. Although proceeding with the Town Hall meetings before a ratified TA is in place is not our preference, the MEC recognizes that it is reasonable for an employer to take corrective action when employee survey results clearly show a need.
Consequently, the MEC advocated to management for a delay to the Town Hall meetings so both parties could fully focus on getting back to the table as soon as possible. AFA is thankful that management was responsive to our feedback and delayed the meetings. We’re tentatively optimistic that listening to the leaders elected to represent the Flight Attendants is a great first step towards re-establishing trust with our group.
The Plan Going Forward
Be assured that once the Town Hall meetings begin, AFA will be closely monitoring the situation. We are still very much concerned with the possibility of direct bargaining at these meetings. Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), management is required to negotiate directly with the elected representatives and is prohibited from doing so with individual members.
If management solicits feedback from Flight Attendants directly related to negotiations, that would be problematic. However, management is allowed to address questions or concerns brought forward by Flight Attendants, even if related to negotiations—at least to a point. Because of the complicated nuances related to direct dealing, AFA has made it very clear that we’re uncomfortable riding this fine line.
However, the AFA Collective Bargaining and Legal departments are fully apprised of the situation and are being given continual updates. National Mediation Board (NMB) Mediator Victoria Gray has also been informed. Management is aware of our position. At the end of the day, management has the right to meet with and talk to employees. Because of the MEC’s concerns, Inflight management has invited the officers to attend as interested observers. We would be able to attend the meetings regardless because we’re also Flight Attendants, but the explicit invitation is very much appreciated as a demonstration of good faith.
In consideration of management’s responsiveness, the MEC is taking no further action regarding the Town Hall meetings for now. Remember this for the upcoming Flight Attendant socials: do not share with management specific bargaining objectives or views related to negotiations! This is true not only at the socials, but at all times.
One again, kudos to management for doing the right thing!
Your MEC—Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Yvette Gesch, Becky Strachan, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn and Sandra Morrow