Working With Management to Find Solutions, Guarding Workers'
The AMR Labor Coalition, comprised of the five unions
representing American Airlines and American Eagle employees,
expressed its support on Tuesday for "active engagement" with AMR
management regarding the difficulties their airlines are currently
experiencing, but also strongly criticized the simultaneous effort
by management to rewrite the Railway Labor Act. AMR's CEO, Don
Carty, is reportedly looking at another round of cost cuts, which
would no doubt include large labor concessions. The company said
earlier this month it's borrowing money, to make payroll, as its
cash position declines.
Railway Labor Act has governed collective bargaining in the airline
industry since 1934. In a news conference in Fort Worth (TX) on
Tuesday, AMR Labor Coalition representatives pointed out that the
Railway Labor Act is well established as an effective dispute
resolution tool. During the decade of the 1990s, for example, there
were only four airline strikes in the U.S. Two of the four strikes
involved American Airlines employees -- the flight attendants in
1993 and the pilots in 1997 (President Clinton intervened in the
pilots' strike by convening a Presidential Emergency Board).
Air Transport Association (ATA)--which serves as the principal
lobbying organization for airline management--has been lobbying for
changes to the Railway Labor Act to institute forced arbitration at
the conclusion of negotiations, rather than permitting the parties
to engage in self-help. However, since the effort to change the
Railway Labor Act does not have the unanimous support of ATA's
member carriers, it appears that the primary lobbying
responsibility is now assigned to the so-called Communities for
Economic Strength Through Aviation, known as CESTA. CESTA was
formed for the sole purpose of lobbying for changes to the Act.
The AMR Labor Coalition is made up of the following:
Transport Workers Union, AFL-CIO (TWU), which represents the
34,500 mechanics and ground employees of American Airlines and
- Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents the 13,500
pilots of American Airlines.
- Association of Professional Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO (APFA),
which represents the 21,000 flight attendants of American
- American Eagle Master Executive Council, Air Line Pilots
Association, Int'l, AFL-CIO (ALPA), which represents the 2,300
pilots of American Eagle.
- Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents the
1,400 flight attendants of American Eagle.
"Now more than ever, our pilots are committed to helping ensure
the future viability of American Airlines," said Captain John E.
Darrah, President of the Allied Pilots Association. "Given the
magnitude of the challenges confronting our airline and our
industry, it's critical that we work cooperatively with management.
Yet that essential cooperation will be very difficult to achieve as
long as management persists in trying to take away our basic rights
in collective bargaining."
the past six years, the Eagle pilots' contract has contained a
provision for mandatory arbitration at the conclusion of
negotiations," said Captain Herb Mark, Chairman of the American
Eagle Master Executive Council, ALPA. "The impact of this provision
is that our pilots have fallen steadily behind their industry peers
in terms of compensation and benefits. It removes any incentive for
management to bargain in good faith."
"After the attacks of September 11, it was the employees of
American Airlines and American Eagle that stepped in to save our
airlines," said James Little, Vice President of the Transport
Workers Union. "In fact, the employees have always done their part
in hard times. And this is the thanks we get? In our last round of
contract negotiations with American in 2001, we reached agreement
on all eight contracts without the involvement of the National
interesting to note that the executives of the airlines that are
doing the best during this difficult period are not supporting any
changes to the Railway Labor Act," said John Ward, President of the
Association of Professional Flight Attendants. "Evidently those
executives are seeing firsthand the value of good employee
relations, particularly at a time like this. By contrast, the
airline executives who are lobbying for changing the Railway Labor
Act are those with a history of poor employee relations, and
perhaps not coincidentally, those having the most difficulty in
AMR's Don Carty (right) wrote to APFA President
John Ward on January 16, "Today, we want to invite you to join in
charting a new course of active engagement -- one that forges a
partnership between management and labor through an intense,
collaborative program of information sharing and problem
"If management truly wants our help, they need to cease and
desist in their efforts to gut the collective bargaining process
and renounce any support--financial or otherwise--for CESTA," said
Bill Hennessey, President of the Association of Flight Attendants.
"Otherwise, it will be virtually impossible to have the open,
constructive dialog--the `active engagement' process management is
calling for--that we all agree is needed."