Search This Blog

Friday, December 31, 2010

A review of the year that was as well as a look forward

I was considering some of the things that happened over the last year and thought I would compile them here.

In every negotiation there are ups and downs. We started off the year in an accelerated fashion going about six weeks making a great deal of progress until we ultimately we hit a road bump in February while waiting for information requests from the Company. A huge dynamic during this period was the rumor of a possible merger with US Airways. Had that happened this review would be a dismal one. Negotiations continued after that mostly through subcommittees until April when a TA was reached on Article 16 Transportation. That was the last TA reached prior to the announcement of the merger with CAL. There was a collective sigh of relief on the committee when CAL was announced as the merger partner. Throughout the rest of the spring and summer negotiations continued and we were able to TA eight articles including two new ones, Field Trips and Training. Then as readers of the blog are aware, we hit another slightly rough patch around the end of September which continued into December. In December after the summit was held things turned around in a positive fashion. As I write this we are slated to meet again in Chicago on the last week of January. I'm hopeful given the tone of the last session that we will continue to make progress and finalize the agreement sometime in 2011.

It is impossible to police an agreement without a working grievance process. As the saying goes "Justice delayed is justice denied". The IBT inherited hundreds of third steps from both previous Unions dating back to 1998. These grievances were being heard at a rate of between 2 and 4 every month. At the end of 2009 the parties agreed to a new third step process that overhauled our decades old system. The first session of third steps was held in December of 2009 and continued for the most part each month throughout 2010. We started the year with those hundreds of grievances in the third step and through hard work by both sides we now have around seventy five grievances system wide. I say about because there is resolution on some but they have not yet been finalized and removed from the docket. One case that sticks out in my mind was a discharge that took six weeks from IRH to resolution at the third step. Under the old system that would have been almost impossible. To be fair the process is not perfect and we continue to iron out wrinkles as we go, but it is a much better system than we previously utilized.

A centralized management system was instituted for the auto shops across the system. The move away from the respective station managers was a positive for the group. Station managers tend to think of the operation without consideration of the maintenance required to accomplish station tasks. In fact when I approached the local manager here two years ago regarding insourcing she told me if she made a nickel in profit from the GQ shop she would spend it on CSR's and Ramp personnel as that is what the customer wants. It will be interesting moving forward to see which method of oversight will be used for the GQ group as CAL does it differently.

In July for everyone in United Services a clean slate was granted for dependability. Although much effort has been made the VP of North America continues to be a hold out on this issue. This was a huge issue, and still is for our Brothers and Sisters in GQ/PV. At the point of the clean slate there were many grievances waiting to be heard regarding dependability. It should be noted that the clean slate was granted without the imposition of a point system such as the Ramp and CSR's agreed to. There are better ways to manage dependability including but not limited to, day and shift swaps, more lenient vacation usage, and some sort of reward system for not using this valuable insurance program. It is my hope that the Company will move in this direction across the departments to achieve both the cost savings they need as well as a positive work experience for us by not having to constantly answer for our absences.

Looking forward, for the first time in a while I'm truly hopeful. We have many new managers at the top level and they seem to have a positive approach towards the employees. I'm not so naïve as to say everything will be alright and we can ignore what's happening around us, but its nice coming to work feeling that there is positive change in the air. We also have a union that is responsive to our needs, and this is borne out by the above paragraphs as they were involved with each mentioned item. Most of the issues above took decades to get out of whack and will take some time to fix completely, but the IBT took these issues head on and proposed ideas that would work both for the Membership as well as the Company. We're going to need that dedication and responsiveness in 2011 as we finalize our agreement and then merge the seniority lists and amalgamate the two separate agreements into one agreement that we can all live with.

I would like to wish each of you a very prosperous and Happy New Year.


The beginning of the end for the TSA?

Just a little over 8 years after its inception, it appears the TSA is in for some tough times.
is the article.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A partnership on our behalf

I received a letter today that was sent to Chairman Costello of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. The letter was jointly sent by Airline Division Director David Bourne as well as TWU Administrative International Vice President John M Conley and a copy can be found here. The letter is in response to a follow up request by Chairman Costello to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation to continue investigating the oversight of repair facilities.

If you haven't already seen the news that prompted Chairman Costello to request additional action, Jock posted it on the Seattle blog on the 22nd of December.

It's good to see the two largest Unions of airline mechanics working together on our behalf. Hopefully this is a partnership that continues to grow and benefits us years into the future.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Retirement article

is an interesting article on the retirement status of the boomer generation. The article states what most of us already know, and that is that we will have to work longer to better ensure the ability to pay for things, especially health care related, when we retire.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bah Humbug!

I was catching up on all of my emails this week and a couple of them caught my eye. Before I get to that I wasn't sure whether to title this post "Bah Humbug" or "Sell Out". "Selling out" refers to the compromising of one's integrity, morality and principles in exchange for money, "success" (however defined) or personal gain. It is commonly associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream audience. ... that definition is found here, and "Humbug" is defined as 1 a : something designed to deceive and mislead b : a willfully false, deceptive, or insincere person 2 : an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception 3 : nonsense, drivel… found here. Because of the season I went with Bah Humbug even though either would work.

The first one of these that I read was an email tree from Horsey tales and GT Davis promoting as "good information" a flyer from Jim Sietz and crew that really went past the limits of believability. As I read the flyer regarding the loss of the 20% outsourcing grievance and saw the blame for the loss was placed squarely on the shoulders of the IBT without regard to any previous failures, I knew that these individuals in their war against windmills had reached new depths and went beyond spin into outright lies. In his missive Jim tells of the IBT attorney not listening to him (this is done in third person to confuse the reader) as well as blaming the IBT for not being able to defend our horrendous scope language. (while I'm at it Jim, how many scope grievances did you successfully defend when you were the ACAC?) Having served as a board member on arbitration cases I can say if what Jim's saying was true (unlikely given past flyers), shame on you Jim. If Jim believed the union was making a mistake, he should have pointed it out either in caucus, or in session by cleverly asking a clarifying question of the parties. Of course if true, I guess Jim's shortcomings in this regard are either a result of inexperience or incompetence. Since he was recalled once in a previous Union for performance related issues, I assume both are understandable conclusions so take your pick.

Brothers and Sisters, when I wrote of the need for good defensible scope language this case is one of the reasons for my position. Let's look at the language of the 20% as negotiated in 1994 for the ESOP. Pre bankruptcy Article II D started with "The Company may contract out up to 20% of all maintenance work annually as measured by the sum of the Maintenance Operations Division's gross annual budget plus those portions of stations' total gross annual budgets attributable to building maintenance and ground equipment maintenance…." followed by some exception language. I agree with Jim in the narrow sense that this seems to be fairly straightforward language. The problem is the formula's numerator and denominator was not clearly defined in the language so that it could be easily defended. As a result the Company claimed they had a meeting with someone in the IAM and told them the calculations were not done correctly; therefore they were changing the formula to calculate the percentage. Whether the meeting took place in my mind is still in question, but what is not in question is the fact that the Company changed the calculation and the IAM missed it for several years followed by AMFA missing it for two years. This created enough of a practice in the arbitrators mind that he awarded the grievance to the Company. Had all the variables been outlined, even with the poor policing of the agreement, this case may very well have had a different outcome.

Like you, this decision disappointed me greatly. But you would think that even Jim knows the agreement is defined in negotiations, not in arbitration. To constantly rely on a neutral to tell you what the agreement the parties' negotiated means, is a failure on both sides. That's why arbitration is used as a last resort remedy. That's not to say arbitration should never be used. There are fights worth having even if the language is less than defensible, and this was certainly one of them. The results of these cases by any competent Union should be and are used as a basis for future negotiations.

The other email I received was apparently authored by GT Davis pleading with Louie Key of AMFA to ask help from the IAM which GT has espoused to despise, and it follows;

Subject: AMFA & IAM
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 2010 14:23:42 -0700

Louie. As I write this email the IBT has been going hot and heavy organizing anyone and everyone. They're like a steamroller plowing everything down including those who are already organized by other unions. The Teamster's "Organizing Division" spends ten's of millions of dollars and will say and do anything to win those votes. They are unethical and a union that only represents their own interest. Sad truth is there is nothing stopping them and as we all know those workers they recruit are mostly uninformed and gullible.

AMFA was a victim of the ibt and could possibly be a victim again at SWA. My point is I fear AMFA's future could be put into question and their future success organizing Airline Mechanics and Related ended without an aggressive plan to fight the evil ibt. Bottom line is it costs money and takes a lot of clout in doing so. I am urging AMFA to reconsider meeting with the IAM leadership and coming to some kind of agreement that will benefit AMFA and the IAM and rid us of the IBT.

Currently the ibt has begun campaigning here in Denver going after the UAL Ramp personnel which are IAM and if they are successful could do quite a bit of damage to the IAM as the IBT did to AMFA. I am sure the IAM would be willing to at least talk about the possibility of some kind of an agreement or affiliation.

Our card drive here in Denver is going very well but I believe a card drive with the IAM involved could be the decisive act that could turn the evil ibt. I am going to forward this email to those at the IAM and hopefully something will come of it. GT Davis, a very concerned AMT.

Talk about politics makes strange bedfellows!

Do you read or other similar sites that debunk what is basically folklore or legend, like the flashing of your headlights will result in your death because of gang initiations? If there is a question, I generally go to a second source when these emails surface just to check. Rarely are these things true. Why do they continue you might wonder? Really I think they continue because they play on our fears and the authors are entertained by, or derive some other benefit from those fears in some way. The email tree from the above group followed by the individual one is no different. Given our tumultuous history it's easy to believe that everyone is out to get us. This is especially true during stressful periods like negotiations. Hopefully however, you do your homework and find out that your uncle's, friend's, sister's, cousin Jim or GT is just an entertainer playing on your fears for his own entertainment and benefit. To do as these emailers implore, and regress, is insanity on a grand scale. And to them I say Bah Humbug!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rumor control

Apparently there is a rumor that our negotiating committee crossed a picket line at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago last week. To be clear, we did not cross the line! We found out about the strike the night before the one day strike was to take place. Clacy Griswold our Chief Negotiator immediately called the Company to inform them that negotiations would not take place at the Palmer House the next day. Arrangements were made to meet at the law offices of Seyfarth Shaw several blocks from the hotel. We also worked with Officers and Stewards of UniteHere Local 1 asking them what kind of support they would like from us. We were asked to man the picket line with the members from Local 1 the next morning. Every member of the Committee walked the line for over an hour prior to the beginning of negotiations on the 16th. We were unable to return to the line later in the day as Local 1 finished at 8:30pm and we were negotiating long after their line went down. The hotel workers thanked many of us the morning of the 17th for our support and show of solidarity. I hope this helps to clear up the rumor that is to the contrary.

In addition Here is a link to the press release and a video in which you can see a quick shot of Ramon Gonzalez from Denver as well as Clacy Griswold walking the line. There were three entrances to the hotel and rest of the committee walked the line at different entrances.

Monday, December 20, 2010

IAD bag room

Over the last two weeks a concern surfaced regarding the potential outsourcing of the mechanical services for the bag room at Dulles Airport. The timing of the discovery of this information definitely cast a pall over the negotiations. But I would contend that there was some good that came out of this incident. One very positive thing that occurred was that the bag room RFP was rescinded from the airport authority website.

Another positive thing that happened was that I got to witness three men in action working towards a quick resolution of the situation. David Bourne advocated the position of the Union, while Doug McKeen and Mike Bonds worked to get the facts surrounding the RFP. As we worked during the first week I was given assurance from both Doug and Mike that there would be no outsourcing of the shop. Then at the beginning of the second week of negotiations a manager from JBT came through the shop looking for information on what exactly our mechanics do as well as how many were currently assigned to the task. After David took this information to Doug and Mike, within a couple of hours the RFP was removed.

How the RFP was issued in the first place appears to have come from the Airport Authority as part of a much larger project. I would like to thank all three of these men for their hard work towards this quick resolution that ended up protecting the jobs of 13 mechanics.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Negotiations Update 12-13-10

Last week a negotiations summit was held in Chicago. The summit was attended by senior leadership of the Airline Division of the IBT, as well as senior leadership representatives from the Company. The parties discussed the resolution of the outstanding work rule items in an effort to move negotiations forward. Both sides felt this summit was productive and as a result of this collaborative effort, full committee negotiations will resume Wednesday the 15th in Chicago.


In addition to negotiations, at the beginning of the week a meeting between the Union, the Company and the outside Auditors was held. The substance of this meeting was to discuss the outstanding information requests by the auditor regarding the 20% outsourcing audit. A follow up leadership summit was held Friday and the parties worked towards resolution of the outstanding requests.


During the week there was also a leadership summit of the parties to attempt final resolution regarding the EWR/PHL station closing grievance.


In attendance for the Union; Captain David - Bourne Airline Division Director, Ed Gleason - IBT Attorney, Clacy Griswold - Chief Negotiator, Paul Alves - Airline Division Representative


In attendance for the Company; Mike Bonds - Executive Vice President Human Resources and Labor Relations, Doug McKeen - Senior Vice President Labor Relations, Jim Keenan - Senior Vice President Technical Operations, Marcel Delhommeau - Managing Director Labor Strategy, Gary Kaplan - Attorney Seyfarth Shaw LLP


In addition each side had several staff members in attendance for technical support

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SFO visit 12-6

On Monday, while waiting for the meeting between the auditors and the Company to address outstanding information requests, Larry Calhoun from JFK and I visited with members in several different areas. We talked to people mostly on dayshift as well as some on swingshift in the narrow body docks, the wide body docks as well as the Jet Shop. We were later joined by Clacy Griswold, Paul Alves, Rich Petrovsky, Ken Meidenger, Harvey Wright, and Javier Lectora. Each one us enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with the mechanics at the base. The visit was a great chance to meet people and listen to their concerns regarding negotiations.

I would say after talking to the members we spoke to, there were some common concerns and frustrations. The big frustration is obviously that we don’t already have a deal in place. A couple of the overarching concerns were a return to a defined benefit pension plan as well as retro pay and job security. We explained these are all negotiable items but that the Committee is determined to achieve these positions when we reach the economic phase of the process. The visit was also a great opportunity to dispel some myths. One Brother approached us, I believe it was in Dock 4 or Special Routes (sp?), asking why we are negotiating away two weeks of vacation. We explained to the Brother that we are not in concessionary bargaining, and no one on the Committee would support any position that resulted in a loss of our vacation benefits.

Rumors are unfortunately typical during every negotiation. Knowing that, how can you keep informed so that you don’t succumb to the rumor mill? Reading the negotiation updates is a start. If you haven’t already done so signing up on the negotiations website is simple, and the emails come to you every time an update is given. If you have further questions asking a Steward or other Representative is a good way to get clarifying information. Please don’t fall victim to rumors.

On a personal note I would like to thank all of you that read the blog who gave feedback and encouragement during the visit. Your kind words were greatly appreciated.

Stay strong Brothers and Sisters. Together we will succeed in achieving an agreement that provides for a decent lifestyle while working, as well as retirement security when we’ve completed our careers.

Friday, December 3, 2010

An interesting 401k study

According to this study "The average participant, relying on their 401(k) as a primary retirement vehicle, will not be able to retire until the age of 73"

Yet another reason we shouldn't and can't rely on a 401k plan alone. The full non commercial report is available for free download after registration. A key finding; we need to contribute more to have a better retirement. In other news water is wet. Sorry for the sarcasm, but the massive shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans is one of the worst things that have happened to the middle class in this country.

EDIT: Today I received an email from Terry Shipp in LAX reminding me about the genesis of the 401k plans. After doing a little research I came across this from Wikipedia. Along with the origins of these plans was an interesting paragraph. It follows;

“A primary reason for the explosion of 401(k) plans is that such plans are cheaper for employers to maintain than a defined benefit pension for every retired worker. With a 401(k) plan, instead of required pension contributions, the employer only has to pay plan administration and support costs if they elect not to match employee contributions or make profit sharing contributions. In addition, some or all of the plan administration costs can be passed on to plan participants. In years with strong profits employers can make matching or profit-sharing contributions, and reduce or eliminate them in poor years. Thus 401(k) plans create a predictable cost for employers, while the cost of defined benefit plans can vary unpredictably from year to year.”

So basically this sums up the idea that the worker shouldering the entire burden for his retirement security is a great thing for Corporate America. But is that fair to us? While 401k's are, and should be, a great supplement to our retirement plans, they should not be the only tool we have. We deserve a reward after sacrificing most of our productive lives to a company. It's a shame for companies that it costs more, but in the last thirty years what have CEO and Corporate Officer pay done in general? Well we all know from reading the papers that they've skyrocketed. It's time we start reversing that trend and begin getting decently compensated for our sacrifices.