May 13, 2013 (revised May 14, 2013 – New text underlined and deletions struck.)
[Note from MEC President Jeffrey Peterson: This is the first installment of several negotiations updates pending, because it has become clear there is way too much information to put into one communication. Also, I personally apologize for the tardiness of this update. In yesterday’s Mother’s Day communication, we indicated that something would be out by “close of business” today. As it turned out, it was a particularly busy Monday in the AFA Alaska office. Consequently, I’m still in the office past 9pm PT finishing this part. The airlines business runs a 24 hour operation and union work within the airline business is often no exception! Although this was not out by close of business compared to banker’s hours, I haven’t left the office so technically it’s not yet the close of business for the MEC today. I know it’s a stretch but I hope you’ll follow me on this one! Seriously, though, my sincere apologies for the delay. /jtp]
Dear Flight Attendants,
Late last week, Alaska Airlines announced that management had reached an “agreement in concept” with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Negotiating Committee. Following that announcement Once the ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) receives a full text proposal from the ALPA Negotiating Committee, the officers will vote voted to convert that agreement in concept to an actual tentative agreement (TA). If approved, the TA which will be sent out for membership ratification shortly. Do not be too concerned about the terminology being used except to understand that ALPA has reached is on the path to reaching a TA with management. ALPA’s current agreement became amendable on April 1, 2013.
Naturally Flight Attendants will want to know how the pilots now nearly have a TA when they are barely one month past the amendable date of their contract yet Flight Attendants are more than one year past our contract’s amendable date—and there is no TA pending in our immediate future! There are several reasons for this discrepancy so let’s break them down point by point, shall we?
- Under the former MEC, AFA announced intent to engage in early openers under Section 6 negotiations (this is from Title II Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act) one year before our May 2012 amendable date. The early opener clause was agreed in the 2006 Contract and again in the 2010 Contract Extension; therefore talks could have began in April 2011. However, the terms for Council 39 Portland, Council 19 Seattle and the MEC executive officers (president, vice president and secretary-treasurer) were all ending in June 2011. Consequently there were continuity concerns about entering into negotiations with one set of officers in May and then possibly having an almost entirely different officer group in place by July. The decision was made to hold off on negotiations until the representational elections and the MEC appointments were settled. As it turned out, there was significant turnover in the officer group.
- Very shortly thereafter the current MEC petitioned AFA International for a different staff negotiator. Due to unfortunate timing, there was a shortage of staff negotiators because nearly all the AFA carriers were engaged in some phase of negotiations. We were forced to wait until our newly-assigned staff negotiator Paula’s schedule was sufficiently cleared to accommodate us. We entered negotiations in November 2011.
- There was a clear mandate from the Membership to review and simplify the language of the entire Contract. The reality is that going through each and every word and reaching an agreement on the language in committee takes some serious time! The pilots went through a similar effort during their last round of negotiations so there was not a need to substantially alter the language this time. Also, it is our understanding that ALPA and Alaska Airlines management have been working together ever since the last negotiations to identify mutually desired contractual changes. This also contributed to mitigate required table time.
- Early on management was interested in scheduling more than one session per month with AFA but we were not available for more dates. That was because of Paula’s previously established and on-going responsibilities at another carrier. Then her carrier was unexpectedly dragged into bankruptcy negotiations, which forced Paula to be temporarily pulled off assignment here. Staff negotiators Joe and Kimberley graciously substituted for Paula at several sessions. By the time Paula returned to us and her schedule allowed for more sessions, management could not accommodate additional dates because of other labor groups (such as ALPA) entering into negotiations. The MEC and the Negotiating Committee definitely noticed a difference in management’s focus and response time once other labor groups were in negotiations.
- Finally, to break it down to the most basic reason why AFA has filed for mediation: management has made it clear from their actions that the AFA Negotiating Committee is asking for too much whereas ALPA apparently is not. It’s not like we haven’t been trying to negotiate with management in good faith. Following management’s initial comprehensive proposal that included 4% wage increases on date of signing, MEC President Jeff Peterson met with CEO Brad Tilden to discuss our concerns with the proposal and the session and to develop a path forward. Following that conversation we went back to the table the next session, this time to be forced once again to meet with executive management to discuss our disappointment with the session. Following that meeting, the Negotiating Committee went back to the table in good faith and listened to management’s concerns. We then developed a very creative off-the-record proposal that we thought addressed at least some of management’s productivity goals and closed the gap in our respective positions. The very next session management presented an off-the-record response to our last off-the-record proposal that included wage increases greater than 4% but nowhere near where we need to be in an overall package to make it viable. How many stagnant negotiating sessions, wasted paper, off-the-record conversations and meetings with executive management do we need to have before enough is enough?! That’s why we filed!
At the end of the day, the MEC congratulates ALPA for reaching a TA an agreement in concept with management without all the drama AFA has experienced thus far. Mediation can be a protracted process but filing for it was—and is—the right thing to do to move our negotiations forward. Simply because AFA filed for mediation does not mean the parties are prohibited from engaging in talks outside of mediation. If management wants to give the Negotiating Committee a proposal we can actually work with even before we meet with Mediator Gray—well, then we welcome it! The Negotiating Committee has made our expectations to management crystal clear: a workable proposal must have healthy wage increases at date of signing as well as on an annual basis and address some of our primary objectives including but not limited to achieving rigs and adjusting the inequalities of the wage scale compared to industry; these provisions cannot be negotiated in isolation and must also fit into an adequate overall package. Until then, mediation moves forward!
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”