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We Are Professionals: Dependability During a Global Pandemic

Date: November 7, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Over the course of the day, we’ve heard from a number of you who have shared your concerns with us about John Slater’s most recent Inflight Leadership Update on the “Importance of Dependability”.  And, while many have expressed an understanding of the content of what is being conveyed in the message, many are expressing outrage at the manner in which the message was delivered.  Others have gone on to express a sense that the message creates a perception of being out of touch with Flight Attendants, Flight Attendant working conditions and the circumstances with which we are all presently faced working in crowded aircraft cabins with the traveling public during a global pandemic.

Overstating the obvious is the fact that we’ve just finished the first full month where our flying partners have been placed on involuntary furlough while others have elected to take time away from work voluntarily in lieu of being placed on involuntary furlough.  Currently, the most junior members of the Flight Attendant work force have completed 21 years of dedicated service to our airline.  That’s right – junior at 21 years!  While it might appear to be distasteful to do so, we are compelled to point out the message was not directed at inexperienced employees who don’t understand the importance of dependability.  The message was written to employees having 21 years or more of dedicated service to the airline.  We get it, John, or we wouldn’t still be working here today after all these years.

As all of us know, because we understand the impact calling in sick has on our flying partners and the operation, we typically exercise restraint when calling to place ourselves on sick leave.  Over the years, we’ve pushed ourselves to come into work even when we weren’t feeling 100% because that’s been our commitment to our profession, our airline and to each other.  But today is different.  We are in the middle of a pandemic of epic proportions where instances of infection are once again on the rise.  Guidance from the CDC, the FAA and even the company has instructed Flight Attendants to stay home when they aren’t feeling well.  The headache or aches and pains that we once came to work with are today indicators of a COVID-19 infection.  And, try as we might to control when these symptoms appear, we’re simply not able to do so.

It should also not escape anyone who is critically analyzing the situation that those of us having more years of service as employees are among those most at risk if exposed to COVID-19.  It is impossible to isolate in the aircraft cabin and the public spaces we traverse during the course of our work day.  As Flight Attendants, the option to work from home is not a viable one for either our careers or the future success of our airline.

Earlier this week when management reviewed the events of the past weekend with Union leadership, the events depicted in the Inflight Leadership Update were not the same as those shared with the MEC Officers.  What was shared was a series of events that occurred at more than one location, and which occurred during the first weekend of the second scheduling month, after a reduction in force during what is typically the start of the flu season in this country. We reviewed with management all of the factors we believe may have contributed to the situation in a spirit of accomplishing continuous improvement.  We never expected that in response to that effort, management would include such an insulting communication in their Leadership Update.

Making an example of any one group of individuals is not only in poor taste, it is contrary to our corporate Working Together Guidelines. No group of individuals deserves to be made an example of or singled out because they are geographically located in an area having a high percentage of  COVID-19 cases and where not coming to work ill during a pandemic is a stated expectation of health professionals and management. 

As experienced Flight Attendants with many years of service to our airline, we understand what is expected of us.  As your Union leadership, we have said as much to John.  At the same time, we asked John to retract the message because it isolates a group of employees and makes them subject to the scrutiny of other employees where, ultimately, improper judgements and inappropriate assessments may result.  This does not build an environment of inclusion and tolerance.  We are disappointed by his decision not to retract his message.

Your AFA Leadership respects and appreciates the professionalism that all of us have and continue to display during what has been among the most difficult and stressful periods of our professional careers.

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