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Aviation Labor Round Up: A Week Of Unrest In The United States

Date: October 1, 2022

Joe Kunzler (Simple Flying)

The week of September 24-30, 2022, would constitute a week of labor unrest in US aviation. From informational picketing to a San Francisco International Airport (SFO) food workers strike to the Delta Air Lines’ pilots union opening a strike authorization vote, labor relations have been in a churn with one ray of hope from one of the two Seattle-based airlines.

San Francisco Airport workers concluded 3 days of strike action

With nine months of negotiations going nowhere, SFO food workers decided to strike, closing most restaurants at San Francisco International on Monday the 26th. After the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' regular meeting Tuesday, September 27, at the prompt of Supervisor Rafael Mandleman and after public comment from strikers - the San Francisco Board of Supervisors pledged to review every lease for compliance with the labor peace provision on Tuesday the 27th.

UNITE HERE Local 2 and the food vendors struck a new deal that gave the San Francisco International Airport workers increased pay and better health insurance benefits. Details of the agreement have not been released.

Southwest Airlines flight attendants’ conduct an all-base informational picket

The Southwest Airlines flight attendants’ union, representing over 18,000 flight attendants, engaged in an informational picket at all Southwest Airlines’ bases. This was in relation to a contract four years past the amendable date, and a mediator has been recently requested by TWU Local 556 for future negotiations.

According to the September 27 Houston Chronicle, flight attendants said the very same scheduling issues that are causing the pilot fatigue are affecting them also. For Denny Sebesta, a Southwest cabin crew member for 34 years and on the negotiating committee,

"Our flight attendants are very, very exhausted and disappointed. They’re losing trust in the company quickly."

The cabin crew on reserve are on call for 24-hour periods also, which is not healthy. Nor is having flight attendants worrying about where to get hot food and rest while on duty.

TWU Local 556 desires an updated contract that:

  • Pays Flight Attendants for time worked.
  • Allows Flight Attendants time to safely rest when not working.
  • Gives Flight Attendants control over their personal schedules when not at work, allowing them the liberty they deserve.
  • Provides access to food and a safe place to sleep when traveling on the job.
  • Fixes the technology failures that disproportionately impact frontline aviation workers and passengers.
  • Creates a modern Reserve system that meets the needs of personnel and the operation, and ends the unsafe practice of 24-hour on call.

Provides benefits that actually help Flight Attendants, like health insurance when we need it, including when we’re injured on the job, battling cancer, or just had a baby.

In short, Southwest Airlines flight attendants want boarding pay, rest time, better technology support, a reserve system that works, and health insurance benefits. Ultimately as TWU Local 556 President Lyn Montgomery told the Dallas Morning News;

"The job has really degraded over the years and we need to see changes to fatiguing shifts, like 24-hour calls. We need to be able to get home. ... And if we don’t get home, we’re supposed to be compensated for the overtime that we’re putting in."

Delta Air Lines pilots asked to authorize a strike

After negotiations between Delta Air Lines' management and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) union chapter stalled again, the pilots’ union leaders are seeking a strike authorization vote which just started on September 30th. In the words of Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta ALPA Master Executive Council,

"This is a crucial step in our efforts to secure a comprehensive, industry-leading contract. We do not make a decision like this lightly. However, we are long overdue for a new agreement. We intend to send management a strong message that Delta’s 14,600 pilots are willing to go the distance to achieve the contract we have earned."

The frustration is genuine and real. Especially after Ryan Argenta, host of “Engage: The Podcast for Delta Pilots,” explained Delta Air Lines management basically wrote a memo stating, ‘Yes a contract this year, but concessions needed and maybe next time.’ Furthermore, of the 50 asks, 2/3rds of the asks are from management. In response, Ambrosi said on the podcast,

If the company knows that the pilots are willing to go the distance, it's much more likely they'll reach an agreement in a quicker timeframe.

Although progress has been made in some parts, the fatigue issues previously documented are growing with – according to the aforementioned ALPA statement – “record amounts of overtime to help Delta operate its overly ambitious schedule.” The pilots’ union is asking for a yes vote believing that the vote will display unity at a key time.

Alaska Airlines pilots have a tentative agreement

On September 24, the Alaska Airlines’ pilots union announced a tentative agreement (TA) with management now being sent for ratification. The TA claim addresses many outstanding issues the pilots have had with the airline. However, both the union management and the airline management are in a media blackout until Monday, October 17 at 11 AM, Pacific, during the ratification vote.

Nonetheless, the pilot’s union has produced many podcast episodes in “The Alaska Pilots Podcast” and other electronic resources to educate members on the contract. Union President Will McQuillen said in one episode the TA addresses priorities his members consistently relayed to him, such as, “Job security, scheduling, and scheduling flexibility, your quality of life and pay, reserve - all in that order.”

Scope – an item of concern to at least several Simple Flying regular commentators – was also addressed in its own podcast episode. In the words of the union’s negotiating committee chair Chris Gruner,

"One of the things we said up front was that we were going to have a scope provision that is tailored to our company's business model. … we have a specific ratio to our narrow body aircraft, that makes sure that if the company grows the small jets, right, there has to be a proportional growth in the mainline aircraft and hence your job."

Such is the case in this TA. Concerned readers are encouraged to check out AlaskaPilots.org for the fine print.

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