Friday, March 29, 2013

TWA flight attendants deserve earned seniority restored before merger is approved

By Dixie Daniels, flight attendant - 03/14/13 04:00 PM ET

One of the great workforce injustices in aviation history occurred when the Association of Professional Flight Attendants at American Airlines (APFA), took unilateral action against the former TWA flight attendants by stripping them of all earned date of hire seniority from TWA.

In an interview with The Fort Worth Star Telegram, APFA President Laura Glading admitted APFA made a “mistake” and “screwed-up big time” by stapling the TWA members to the bottom of the seniority list. Ms. Glading has done nothing to remedy that mistake. APFA continues to cause direct financial harm to the former TWA attendants hoping they will retire or quit. Because the TWA attendants were laid off after 9/11 and unemployed for almost 10 years, they lost pension contributions, salary and benefits totaling more than $2 Billion. They must continue to work and many will until they are no longer physically able.

American recently offered a $40,000 lump sum buy-out to flight attendants. Over 2,250 accepted the offer. This company action provides the solution to the seniority problem that is simple and fair. There is no harm financially or otherwise to any current American flight attendant by integrating the remaining 950 former TWA members into their proper place on the seniority list now that 2,250 are departing. By the time 2,250 depart, every American flight attendant will move up the seniority list.
Congress must demand that DOJ, DOT, and Labor, require this solution before any merger is finalized. APFA should not jeopardize a merger when it can quickly remedy its own mistake and avoid litigation on seniority and other questionable actions to spite the TWA attendants.

The litany of APFA injustices is too long to fully recount. Former TWA flight attendant Amy Ludwig started flying in 1969 and timely applied for the $40,000 buyout. Amy had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Because she was deprived of her seniority from 1969 to the acquisition in 2001, she could not depart with the first group leaving in December 2012. She was assigned to depart in June 2013. She called APFA to ask if she could depart immediately because she might not survive until June. APFA responded “If you die before your departure date, you lose your money and your heirs will forfeit the money too.” Amy died December 18, 2012. Had she not been deprived of her seniority, she would have been one of the first to choose her departure date, not one of the last. APFA stopped the earned payout and Amy’s heirs have nothing.

To further disenfranchise the TWA flight attendants, APFA changed its constitution to require that furloughed employees pay full union dues. Because TWA was unemployed for years with little or no income, they accrued substantial arrearages. When they were recalled, APFA demanded that the dues be paid. Some owed well over a thousand dollars and most could not pay, placing the vast majority of TWA flight attendants in bad standing. This means that you are denied the right to vote in elections or contract offers, access information on the APFA website or go to Congress to voice your opinion.

Almost all the 950 TWA attendants who remain could not vote in the recent APFA election for president. That election was narrowly won by Ms. Glading by 150 votes in a runoff. The same Ms. Glading who said depriving TWA of seniority was a mistake that never should have happened. She would have been defeated by TWA votes and would not be representing APFA in the merger before Congress had she corrected the mistake.

American granted a 3% equity stake in the company to the APFA workforce upon emergence from bankruptcy. APFA devised a method to disenfranchise the TWA members. Ms. Glading made the motion to use a look-back period of W-2 earnings from American when all the TWA attendants were unemployed from American for some or all of the time. The result will give the TWA attendants an insignificant percentage of the distribution compared to those who were not laid off.

If APFA merges with the Association of Flight Attendants, (AFA) at US Airways, APFA insists that both groups receive their date of hire seniority. AFA is the largest flight attendant union in the country with over 60,000 members. The AFA president wrote to Chairman Rockefeller supporting the former TWA attendants and urged Congress to act because their own constitution recognizes that the date of hire is the only fair, impartial and blind way to merge seniority lists.

APFA is playing the clock to sweep their mistake that never should have happened under the rug. APFA knows the TWA attendants will be further damaged by being on the bottom of both carriers in the combined seniority list. The problem must be corrected to avoid workforce unrest that is detrimental to the newly merged company. TWA will be only 4% of the merged workforce. Congress must insist that APFA reverse its discrimination and admitted mistake or Congress will need to legislate an end to this discrimination that has caused so much pain to a small minority. Fix it now.

Daniels has been a TWA/AA flight attendant since 1973.

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