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August 20, 2015

Inside this issue:AFA Files for Federal Mediation
Mediation Questions and Answers

AFA Files for Federal Mediation

Today AFA filed for federal mediation under the jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board in order to bring three years of negotiations to a close and allow United to complete its merger with Continental/Continental Micronesia. Once the case is docketed, the National Mediation Board will contact the parties regarding negotiation dates next steps. Please see the AFA media release regarding the filing for mediation. 

AFA Director of Collective Bargaining Joe Burns today sent a letter to United VP of Human Resources Jeff Wall refuting the Company’s baseless allegations that AFA violated the Negotiations Protocol Agreement. As the letter indicates, the Company’s assertions are without merit. AFA believes we should be spending time discussing the substance of the issues separating the parties rather than these procedural debates.   

“A clear dispute exists and it is time for federal mediation. We are calling on management to negotiate a fair contract within the reality of record profits. Three years after the talks for a joint contract began, management doesn’t seemed focused on negotiating a contract Flight Attendants can ratify,” said AFA International President Sara Nelson.  “The longterm success of United Airlines depends upon current executives finishing this merger, which includes negotiating a joint Flight Attendant contract, and making good on promises to employees, Capitol Hill and the traveling public.”

We will need ever increasing pressure on the Company to do the right thing and settle this agreement. So wear your red AFA pin (new shipments of pins are arriving at each local around the system as the pins roll off the production line) to support your Joint Negotiations Committee. Stay informed about the negotiations at or by signing up to be a Negotiations Support Activist (NSA).


Mediation Questions and Answers

What is the difference between Facilitation and Mediation?
Facilitation is a voluntary process where members of the National Mediation Board will help guide a contract negotiation by making suggestions and helping to improve communication between the parties. Because it is completely voluntary, the facilitators have no legal authority in the negotiations but are there by invitation of the parties. Since July 2014, negotiations for a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) at United Airlines have been facilitated.       

In contrast, mediation under the Railway Labor Act is a formal, statutorily prescribed process where the mediator has specific authority including setting the agenda, time and place of meetings. Because the mediator is involved in the negotiations by statute as opposed to invitation of the parties, the mediator plays a far greater role in directing the negotiations including subjects to be discussed in a given week and the general approach to negotiations. When AFA files for mediation, either solo or with the Company, these talks will become mediated talks. 

Can the Mediator make the Company or Union agree to specific items?  
No, the mediator cannot make the Company or Union agree to particular contract provisions.  The mediator can push the parties towards settlement by using their influence but cannot determine which particular provisions end up in the tentative agreement. The Union negotiating committee and the Company must agree on provisions of the TA.

What is the difference between Mediator and an Arbitrator?
A mediator provides structure to negotiations and often requires work by the parties, but does not have the power to decide particular terms of a collective bargaining agreement. The mediator can suggest terms but the parties cannot be forced to agree to terms. In contrast, if a union and an employer agree to arbitration they are giving the arbitrator authority to decide which provisions would be included in the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator hears testimony and issues a decision. For example, the recent American Airlines agreement included a provision for binding arbitration which was agreed to for American Flight Attendants as part of the bankruptcy process. AFA US Airways Flight Attendants later ratified the binding arbitration process once the standard was improved and included the value of the US Airways contract. The new process ratified by US Airways Flight Attendants also includes a provision to increase American Flight Attendant wages if the value of the joint United agreement is worth more.

To be clear, NMB mediation is not binding arbitration. A third party will not determine the provisions of our contract under mediation. Our contract will only become effective through membership ratification. 

How soon can we expect a contract?
That depends in large part on whether we as 24,000 Flight Attendants come together in one voice and pressure management to do the right thing and resolve the outstanding issues. In the coming weeks and months, we will be increasingly calling on Flight Attendants to keep the pressure on the Company.  That means wearing our red AFA pin and coming out to follow-up events to the highly successful July 16 worldwide Day of Action

Federal mediation under the Railway Labor Act is a process that ultimately leads to deadlines when we are disciplined and focused on our priorities. It was not possible to enter mediation earlier in negotiations as we needed a clearly defined dispute in joint contract negotiations, but since the July 23rd date has passed we now have this option and we will use it to help achieve a tentative agreement for ratification.

We have much work to do on the very important Scheduling, Reserve and related work life sections.  As we have mentioned previously, one of the core disputes in the negotiations is the company's desire to treat these important quality of life issues as mere matters of dollars and cents. The reality is that in the context of a merger and a highly profitable company, this is not the time for making life worse for Flight Attendants and less structure for the Company. While we realize there will be many changes in a merged contract negotiations, we absolutely reject management's assertions that we must cut $25 million from these sections. 

So how quickly we can get to an agreement will depend on how soon we can force management to drop their untenable bargaining positions. That all depends on the leverage we generate together. Management is counting on continuing to play up division, but we have a shared experience now and we cannot go backward. WE are United and we will be here long after they are gone. It's up to us to deny management the satisfaction of a divided workforce and instead demonstrate our common interests of sharing the benefits of the merger and pushing our careers forward with improvements.




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