The Flight Attendant's Negotiations and the "Me-Too" Clause

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Updates

7/12/07 Final Update

5/31/07

Final Update (7/12/07)

To recap, on the surface it looked like our pilot group had an opportunity to improve our contract by supporting the FA’s in their effort to obtain a better contract than the one they were being offered by the company.  Using the Me Too clause, it seemed perfectly logical that we could help ourselves by helping the FA’s.  A resolution of support for the FA’s did pass, but it did not contain the commitment of support that some were looking for.  Shortly thereafter the FA’s had a TA very similar to what the company had been offering, which passed.

Disclaimer
Because this is the first of the journalistic type articles we have been promising we want to set some ground rules.  One of ALPAWatch’s objectives is to inform the membership.  Provide them with information not presented elsewhere or offer an independent account of a story, especially if the facts or other informed accounts of the story run counter to the official story.  When acting in this role, ALPAWatch takes a journalistic position, i.e. present information as factually and as neutrally possible.  When opinions are part of the story, we try to get all sides of the story and present them as fairly as possible.  We will get the best answers we can and report them to you, the membership as fairly and as unbiased as possible.

Reporting what people tell us does not mean ALPAWatch is agreeing with what is written or that ALPAWatch has taken a position on an issue.

When ALPAWatch takes a position on an issue, it will clearly state its position.  Its position on this issue was that the Me Too clause seemed like an opportunity our leadership should consider.  ALPAWatch encouraged the leadership to consider this opportunity.  Now that this issue has played itself out, the membership deserves an unbiased accounting of what happened so you can make your own assessments of the decisions our leadership made.  All issues ALPAWatch covers will be handled in the same manner.

In short, we are asking you not to murder the messenger.  If you don’t like what we find out, tell us why.  Tell us why you take exception so we can dig a little deeper if necessary.

The information below is the result of interviews with people who were at the meetings where these issues were discussed or from those that have first hand knowledge of the issues.

What Happened
The Me Too is a complicated clause.  This update does not attempt to explain the technicalities of this clause.  To understand it better, read the Across The Table http://crewroom.alpa.org/ Pubs/Library, Across the Table, March 21.  For the purposes of this update, the very simply explanation is that Me Too clauses allow one labor group to benefit from the gains of another.

So, for the Me Too clause to benefit the pilots, another labor group would have to get a better contract than what the company was seeking.  It wasn't’t until the FA’s started to show signs of possibly being the only labor group that might do better than what the company was asking for that the Me Too clause had any chance of helping the pilots (and all other NWA labor groups we might add).  A resolution was then proposed.  The resolution proposed supporting the FA’s, but of course the underlying plan was that we could help ourselves by helping the FA’s.

The negatives of trying to get a better contract via supporting the FA’s turned out to be these. 

First was a business-friendly bankruptcy court working against all labor groups.  The FA’s lost two big rulings in court.  First they lost on the right to strike in bankruptcy.  Then they lost on their attempt to get relief based on the argument of improving economic conditions at NWA.  It was becoming clear that the FA’s were not likely to improve their contract while NWA was in bankruptcy.  Any hope of getting a better contract would have to come outside of bankruptcy and would probably require a successful strike.

Second was a concern that we could hurt the value of the ALPA Claim.  Threat of a strike (post bankruptcy) realistic or not could have had an effect on the claim market.  So before we drove down the market with hints of a possible strike, it was prudent to asses the likelihood that the FA’s might be allowed to strike, post bankruptcy.  Any loss of claim dollar value would also have to be calculated and subtracted from any improvements this whole scheme might produce.

Third, the NMB indicated that in post bankruptcy, the FA’s still would not be released to strike for a long time, possibly years.  The NMB’s statements made it very unlikely that a strategy involving supporting the FA’s and benefiting from it via the Me Too clause would be successful.

The results of the resolution proposing support for the FA’s was a vote in favor and a statement of support,
”The NWA MEC hereby commits to continue supporting the NWA Flight Attendants in their effort to achieve a fair and reasonable Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

The statement was intentionally vague because it has been a long proven strategy not to give our intentions away but rather to keep management guessing.

Will we still benefit from the Me Too?
The general, answer is Yes. The clause survives bankruptcy, so it remains in effect.
Specifically, if the FA’s got a better contract then what the company asked for, then yes.  An audit is underway to determine if other labor groups do benefit from the FA’s CBA, via the Me Too.  The results of that audit may provide us some very small gains.  A preliminary assessment looks like there may be a few dollars coming our way…emphasize few.  This Me Too clause works by a costing method rather than exact language equivalents.  If the audit turns up something of value, it will get converted to a dollar cost that the pilots can then spend on improvements for our contract.

This opens up the subject of “What contract changes do we ask for next?”  Think about it now and quickly.  Get some ideas in your head about what we should get back next.  Think about the small items as well as the obvious large items because what we have to spend might only be enough to make a small change.  You might also want to think about the logic behind your choices, i.e. why is your number one item number one and why is it more fair and equitable than other items of similar value.  If the MEC does not get a priority list from the pilots on what they should try to get back next, then they are left to make their own decisions or be swayed by the most vocal.  It should be noted (and applauded) that this MEC is using more Wilson Polling to try and learn what the needs and desires are of this pilot group.  Don’t rely on those polls alone.  Hearing from you, either directly or collectively through ALPAWatch is still a very good idea.

If you send the MEC something, please Copy ALPAWatch.  All contract improvements need to applied to the pilot group in a fair and equitable manner.  To help monitor the decisions of the MEC, ALPAWatch needs to know what the pilots are asking for.

If you have some information that is contrary, supportive or in addition to this update, or if you have information about any other subject, we would like to hear from you.  Please email ALPAWatch at alpawatch@comcast.net.

Update ( 5/31/07)

The Flight Attendants passed their TA, thus ending any opportunity the pilots might have had to negotiate a better contract for us via the Me Too clause. This appears to be a tremendous opportunity lost.

The vote was very close. Only a few votes made the difference. Even a mild level of support from the pilots could have easily made a difference in the vote or a difference in their contract. The timing is very interesting as well. If the vote had been NO, there was no time left to negotiate another TA before the company exited bankruptcy. The flight attendants would now have their rights to Section 6 Negotiations restored which could lead to a strike, and we would have the right to honor such a strike. Now, the opportunity to negotiate with the threat of a strike would seem to be at least 5-6 years away.

In the June 1, 2007 Hotline (https://crewroom.alpa.org/nwamec  website in the Pubs/Library section) the union indicates states...

"The “Me Too” clause directs that if there is “a material aggregate improvement in the wage rates, work rules, benefits or other compensation” in the Flight Attendant contract as compared to the imposed terms and conditions, then “such improvement or its proportional hard dollar equivalent shall be automatically applied to reduce the labor cost savings agreed upon for ALPA-represented employees.”

We have officially asked NWA management to begin the review of the Flight Attendant contract and its full costing.  We did not start this effort prior to their ratification as it is a very time consuming review which would not be required had the Flight Attendants voted it down. Management expected our request and we do not anticipate any problems in obtaining an open-book look at the full costing."

It remains to be seen if the pilots will realize any contract improvements as a result of the process stated above. Regardless of any improvements that might come out of that process, the actions our union took on this matter are final and of great interest to ALPAWatch.

The Leadership of our Union owes its members an explanation as to why they chose the course of action they did, essentially to ignore the opportunity. Some excellent reasons may exist for ignoring this opportunity. Whatever the reasoning, the Leadership should explain themselves. ALPAWatch is investigating this issue and intends to find out as much as possible about the behind the scenes decisions that lead to this outcome. If anyone has any additional information or knows some one we should talk to, please send an email to alpawatch@comcast.net.

Check back here for future updates, or better yet, sign up for Email Updates and you will get the updates as they are released.

Update( 5/1/07)

On April 26th, the MEC voted on the proposed resolution to support the Flight Attendants. Here is an excerpt from the Hotline...

Agenda Item 22: (Support for NWA Flight Attendants): The NWA MEC hereby commits to continue supporting the NWA Flight Attendants in their effort to achieve a fair and reasonable Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Passed by Acclamation

Shortly there after, the FA's announced a "poor" Tentative Agreement (TA). As of now, there is no way to know for certain if these two events are related. Common sense would seem to say they are. We are checking into the details of why the MEC issued such a weak statement of support on what may have been our last, best chance to make immediate improvements to our CBA. To Date, the MEC still has not answered the questions posed in the Letter to the MEC below. Contact your Reps and ask them to answer those questions, Check back here for more to come on this topic.

Update (4/7/07)

To date there has been no response from the MEC on this issue. Today an email was sent to all ALPAWatch email subscribers ( If you are not a subscriber please take a moment to Subscribe). In that email, this issue was explained. ALPAWatch is encouraging all pilots to contact their LEC representatives and the MEC. Ask them for the answers to the questions posed in the letter below. The pilots need and deserve to have the facts on this issue. A vote will be taken at the next Special MEC Meeting ( April 23rd) as to whether the pilots should support the flight attendants or not. The pilots should have a say in that decision. To make in informed decision, the pilots need the answers to the questions asked in the letter below.

Email your reps today. Go to http://crewroom.alpa.org/nwamec/ for the email addresses. Sign in and click on LECs.

Original Post (3/26/07)

This is a Hot Topic because the Flight Attendants could settle on a contract at any time. If that occurs, any opportunity this issue might provide the pilot group to improve the Flight Attendant's contract, and thus our own, will be lost.

On March 21st an Across the Table was released. The topic was the "Me-Too Clause" and what that means to the pilots with respect to the Flight Attendant's negotiations. On the face of it, this seems like it could be a tremendous opportunity for the pilot group. Since that Across the Table is seriously lacking is details, ALPAWatch is seeking additional information on this subject before it takes further action. The letter below, requesting additional information was sent to the MEC. At this time (3/26/07), ALPAWatch is awaiting a reply. That reply will be published here. (If you have Subscribed for email updates, you will be automatically advised when a response is received) Depending on the information received in that reply, expect ALPAWatch to publish survey/poll/petition (as necessary) to determine what the pilot group believes would be proper course of action. Other possible actions are being considered.

Letter to MEC

Logo

 

To: NWA ALPA MEC
From: ALPAWatch
Subject: ALPAWatch is working up an information article concerning the recent mailing of:

 ACROSS THE TABLE

“The Me-Too Clause”

 

If you are not familiar with ALPAWatch, you can read all about it at www.alpawatch.org.

 

Since the existence this “Me-Too” clause seems to hold potential for helping the pilot group greatly and quickly improve their fair compensation, investigating this issue and reporting the results to the pilots of NWA is in keeping with the Mission and Objectives of the ALPAWatch.

ALPAWatch is requesting the best, most complete information available on the following:

AFA, the NWA Flight Attendants union, is not specifically mentioned in the excerpt of “Paragraph D.2.a. of Letter 2006-01” included in the March 21st “Across the Table.”  Why not?  Is this Me-Too clause in fact encompassing of ALPA and AFA?

What are the potential benefits this clause represents to NWA pilots?

What are the potential risks that this clause represents to NWA Pilots?

To what extent can NWA ALPA involve itself in the NWA Flight Attendants negotiation process?  Officially?  Un-Officially?  Methods, tactics, support for the AFA?

Assuming some level of involvement with the NWA Flight Attendants negotiations is possible, what are the legal and practical limits of that involvement?  What are the potential benefits and risks to the NWA pilots, if such involvement was undertaken?

How would you characterize the level of communication currently talking place between ALPA and AFA?

Why does this “Across the Table” provide so few details about this subject?

If this clause represents the opportunities to the pilot group that it seems to on its face, then why has this issue not been perused before now?  If it has been perused before now, how so?

What is the position of the NWA MEC on this issue?

 

Time is of the essence.  At any moment the Flight Attendants could settle their contract, thus erasing any opportunities this issue may afforded the pilot group.  Please respond to this inquiry as soon as possible.  Please send responses to alpawatch@comcast.net.

Thank you for your Prompt attention.

 

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