Updated: March 8, 2011
Continental Flight Attendants want to know what it would be like to be a Member of AFA. As we receive questions we are posting the answers on our website.
Does AFA use professional negotiators?
Yes. AFA employs professional negotiators who attend every bargaining session and work in conjunction with elected Flight Attendant negotiators. In addition AFA retains experts to assist in our negotiations when there is need for specialists in certain Contract provisions such as benefits.
I like the flexibility I have to work as much as I want. If Continental Flight Attendants join AFA, would we lose that option?
No. The vote for Union representation is not a vote for a Contract. Following the conclusion of a representation election both Contract continue to exist and remain in full force and effect. With AFA when a single Contract is negotiated it would be based on the priorities of all Flight Attendants and representatives from both Continental and United would make up a negotiating committee that works with our professional negotiators to get a Contract that includes the best of both pre-merger Contracts.
United Flight Attendants like flexibility, too. We have pushed for greater flexibility, pay protections and work rules. These Contractual provisions make United respect our time with more efficient scheduling and it ensures we are paid for our time on duty and time away from home. These protections also give us rights during reassignments and irregular operations.
Our Flight Attendant Union with representatives from BOTH airlines would come together on the negotiating committee and bring the "best of both" to the table – based on the direction of the membership. We would all stand together to achieve the best Flight Attendant Contract at the world’s leading airline. Then, we all get to vote; Why would any of us vote to "lose" flexibility? As Flight Attendants at the new United Airlines in a Union led by us, we decide our priorities together.
Is AFA willing to change?
AFA is a reflection of the Flight Attendants within the Union and therefore the Union evolves with the members AFA represents. The structure of AFA ensures Flight Attendant members directly elect flying partners from her/his airline and base to serve as Local Council officers. The elected Local Council President also serves on the Master Executive Council, which is the body that coordinates negotiations, Contract enforcement and daily issues affecting Flight Attendants at that airline. The Local Council President also serves as a member of the AFA Board of Directors, which is the highest governing body of the Union. This structure ensures that AFA members are directly connected to the leadership of the Union and the leadership is accountable to AFA members.
Flight Attendants at each airline define and decide our own priorities with professional support as needed. As of January 1, 2011 AFA gained new leadership at the international level: President and Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant, Veda Shook; Vice President and United Airlines Flight Attendant, Sara Nelson and re-elected Secretary-Treasurer and United Airlines Flight Attendant Kevin Creighan. These three International Officers work according to the priorities set by AFA members and they are directly accountable to all AFA Local Council Presidents. We encourage Continental Flight Attendants to view a New Year video message from Veda Shook posted on www.afacwa.org.
With the addition of thousands of new AFA Members, our Union will grow in ideas and strength contributed by Continental Flight Attendants. United Airlines Flight Attendants built our profession as the pioneer members of AFA and now our Union represents the professional work of Flight Attendants at 21 airlines. We have achieved a lot throughout our history, but we stand to do even better as Continental Flight Attendants join AFA as full partners in defining our future.
If AFA wins the representation election how would the Continental Contract be administered and who would be on the seniority merger teams?
Until there is a new single Contract in place, each AFA Member group at the pre-merger airlines would run separately with their own Local Council and Master Executive Council (MEC) structure. In other words, Continental Flight Attendants would utilize the AFA structure with Flight Attendant representatives from each of their bases to hold officer positions and participate in all AFA committees to address the issues affecting Flight Attendants at that base. Each of the Local Council Presidents representing Continental Flight Attendants would come together to make up the voting members of the AFA Master Executive Council at Continental Airlines to coordinate issues affecting all Continental Flight Attendants.
The AFA Continental MEC would be charged with administering the Contract covering pre-merger Continental Flight Attendants - with all of the resources available through our Union such as legal assistance and the other experts from each of the AFA departments. In other words, Continental Flight Attendants would be in charge of their MEC and their Contract. The same is true for the seniority integration process. Flight Attendants would run for the two positions on the Committee and then be charged with undertaking the same process already underway by our committee at United. Once the list at Continental is reviewed and compiled - and every Member has the opportunity to review their place on it - then the two lists will be merged, taking into account issues such as when Flight Attendant seniority accrual actually began, ie. before training or after.
AFA puts the process and the Union in the hands of Flight Attendants - and that will be true immediately for Continental Flight Attendants as well. Not only is our Union focused on Flight Attendant issues it also ensures that Members at each airline have the autonomy to make their own decisions on the issues that affect them.
What is happening with the integration of Continental and Continental Micronesia?
United’s February 2, 2011, Support Statement for Single Carrier Determination has prompted a lot of questions since it stated:
“Historically, CMI [Continental Micronesia] had its own operating certificate, but as a result of the merger between United and Continental, Continental determined it would seek to combine the Continental and CMI operating certificates as a predicate to ultimate issuance of a single operating certificate for United and Continental (including CMI). On December 22, 2010 the FAA granted Continental’s request and issued a new operating certificate covering both Continental and CMI.”
In the IAM letter to the National Mediation Board on the same day they state:
“Based on the Continental-CMI SOC [single operating certificate] alone, it is obvious that the integration of Continental and CMI flight attendants is much more advanced than the integration of Continental and United Flight Attendants.”
Related questions AFA has received: Do you know what happens to my seniority? How does seniority integration work under LOA 33? Do you know if this means I can transfer from Guam to Houston? Does this mean we need to negotiate one contract for the whole group since we currently have separate contracts? Are there contract negotiations happening now? What will happen to my pension since Continental Micronesia is in the IAM NPP [National Pension Plan] and I am in the CARP [Continental Airlines Retirement Plan]?
Although we strongly believe Flight Attendants deserve to have this fundamental information affecting their jobs, AFA has not been provided this information since we do not represent these Flight Attendants. We encourage the Machinists to inform their members on this merger.
It has been more than 5 years since US Airways and America West have merged. Why is it taking so long to negotiate a joint contract?
The circumstances surrounding the negotiations at US Airways are very different from our situation at the new United. First, US Airways management has been more than satisfied to run the flight operations separately for the past five years. Management has stated publicly over and over that they are better off keeping the operation separate. So, there’s little to no incentive to reach a deal. In addition, the seniority integration for the pilots is working its way through the legal system as pre-merger US Airways pilots are challenging the arbitrator’s decision. Since the pilots are nowhere near to even discussing a single contract, management has had little incentive to reach a deal with Flight Attendants because the scheduling of pilots and Flight Attendants at US Airways is intertwined.
Further, merger negotiations do not include the procedures of the National Mediation Board available in normal contract negotiations. There is neither mediation nor the final step of negotiations that includes a 30-day cooling-off period and strike deadline. The NMB can facilitate, but the agency doesn’t have any real power to encourage a deal. There’s nothing in the negotiations process to encourage management to reach a deal – except the bottom line.
AFA’s seniority integration process was completed nearly 5 years ago, but the AFA holds the combined seniority list until there is a single contract. Pre-merger US Airways Flight Attendants have a contract with over 60 years of bargaining history – even though it is now a product of two bankruptcies, many of the contract provisions, including the pay scale, are more costly than the America West contract, which does not have the long history of bargaining. However, America West Flight Attendants have an AFA negotiated healthcare plan that was not hit by a bankruptcy and is less costly to Flight Attendants than the US Airways plan. A single contract must include improvements for all Flight Attendants. Management’s proposals to date have been concessionary for one of the groups or both groups. US Airways Flight Attendants, East and West, cannot agree to a contract that would mean concessions for either group – and their Negotiating Committee continues to press for the priorities set by Flight Attendants of each pre-merger airline.
Last month pre-merger US Airways (East) Flight Attendants gained the right to begin Railway Labor Act Section 6 negotiations. They served the NMB and management with notice. AFA will use the Section 6 process to march toward a deal – in coordination with both groups of Flight Attendants. The preferred resolution is a single contract that works for everyone, but management has little incentive to agree to the necessary improvements and therefore the Flight Attendants at US Airways are utilizing all options to encourage management to reach a deal that works for both Flight Attendant groups.
Our situation at the new United is VERY different. First, United Flight Attendant are in Section 6 negotiations already which means we have the ability to utilize traditional pressure to reach a deal. In addition, United management does have the incentive of the bottom line to reach a deal with us. They have predicted 1.1 billion dollars in additional cash from revenue generation and cost savings once the operational integration is complete. AFA will not provide them with the combined seniority list until we have a single contract that is ratified by the combined group. Jeff Smisek has stated that he wants the operational merger completed by the time we receive the single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration – now expected as early as the first quarter of 2012.
The circumstances of this merger are in our favor and we need to make the most of it. Coordinating our efforts as soon as possible is in the best interests of all of us. This is a great opportunity before us and we should make the most of it together.