Dear Flying Partners:
There are just under two days left to make one of the biggest decisions of our careers. It has been a privilege to talk with you throughout this ratification process and to have the opportunity to get to know and hear from our flying partners who proudly flew as Continental and Continental Micronesia Flight Attendants. Even though we may have had different priorities going into these negotiations, we all have much more in common with families to care for and the desire to have pride in where we go to work. We are days away from the opportunity to start to build our future together.
It is no surprise that these negotiations were more challenging than any we have experienced before. We worked hard to combine three very different contracts and different priorities. Some provisions extremely important to one group garnered the exact opposite sentiment from another group. Once we were able to achieve a common position, we still had to negotiate with management whose position was generally to take the worst provisions from each contract to form the new joint contract. Every “good” provision from one contract had a cost associated with it in order to extend the benefit to the entire population. But with your support and action we pushed management to pay well over three times what they were willing to pay just one year ago.
Early on management wanted to build a contract with a blank slate – as if none of the three contracts existed. Not only does that make it impossible to complete negotiations, it provides no foothold from which to negotiate. When the NMB started facilitation the mediators put an end to that and began an "adopt and amend" process that had the parties pull whole sections from existing language as much as possible. The advantage of that process is bringing the history of the language for contract enforcement. The difficulty is the inability to create an entirely new way of doing things such as alternate Reserve systems. If we go back to the table with the three contracts, this process doesn't change. This Tentative Agreement doesn’t meet every individual priority, but it is industry-leading and it does provide a strong foundation for our future bargaining with immediate, substantial economic gains now.
We pressed management to put millions more into this agreement in the final minutes of negotiations. I can confidently report to you that we squeezed every penny possible out of this process. There is no doubt that we will respond and press forward based on the decision of the majority and our future is in your hands with your vote. I have a duty to you, however, to let you know that the landscape for negotiations going forward is not as favorable as it has been due to the forecast for our industry, the worst of globalization, the projections for the economy, the price of fuel, and politics. The only certainty in going back to the table is that we must define a small number of priority issues that we all care about, back them up with a 90 percent strike vote or better and demonstrate a sustained commitment to back our negotiators with collective action. If the NMB schedules mediation, management will come with their priorities too and we must be ready for the fight.
Ratification brings certainty for our future. We can lock in the pay increases, improved scope and job security with best no furlough language we’ve ever had in a contract, the flexibility and opportunity afforded with a combined domestic/international operation, our valuable trip and duty RIGs, improved minimum rest and the expanded Reserve pay and schedule flexibility. We also gained the best reassignment language in the industry and protected our Flight Attendant healthcare plan with capped costs and no increases to deductibles or out of pocket maximums, along with all of the other options for healthcare. Each of these valuable provisions will apply to our entire population of Flight Attendants. All of this was on management’s priority list to remove from our joint contract. If they had the chance, they would seek to take away much of what we achieved together. We can’t give them that chance or wait any longer to gain the stability of a merged operation.
Ratification means we are one airline that can start the process of integration to operate with consistency, grow, compete and succeed. Ratification means we are truly one union of Flight Attendants listening to each other to identify problems we want to solve together. Ratification means we can set new goals and work to achieve them through the power of our solidarity.
This vote is too important to allow others to make this decision for you. If you have not yet cast your vote, do it now. Obtain your Activation Code through the instructions on OurContract.org and vote before Noon Eastern time on August 12th. I am proud to stand with all of you and I believe we have a bright future together. Let’s vote and move forward as one.
AFA-CWA United Master Executive Council