Both the company and the union are responsible for the plight of the former TWA members and both have the ability to extend our recall rights and assure our eventual return to our jobs. The company is holding the recall rights hostage to try to force the union to open contract negotiations, and the union refuses to do so. The union pays lip service to their desire to save jobs, but they have done nothing to force the issue. Given the fact that APFA is solely responsible for depriving every TWA member of all accrued seniority, they have an obligation to do much more.
The former TWA F/A’s have already paid for the extension of recall rights many times over with the completely avoidable 5 year career hiatus we have all endured and the many hardships that go along with that. With each passing day, more former TWA flight attendants draw closer to a future without the prospect of ever resuming the jobs we were promised when AA trotted out the “Two Great Airlines – One Great Future” campaign to win government approval for the purchase of TWA.
There is plenty of blame to go around in this sorry situation. The stage was set when the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) became our bargaining representative. Because of the language in the IAM Constitution, TWA F/A’s lost the right to make decisions such as the surrender of the hard-won scope clause. The IAM held the bargaining rights for our group and had the authority to make any decision they wanted on our behalf. Had the IAM refused to relinquish our labor protective provisions for nothing more than the word of a company who lacks basic integrity, we would not be in the mess we are today. Their actions are a far cry from the clout that was promised when they campaigned to represent us. They must be held accountable and other workers must be warned of the hazards of being represented by them.
The company assured the TWA workers that surrendering our scope clause was little more than a formality so that our contract which was superior in many ways to that of our counterparts at AA would “mirror” the F/A group at AA. They sure didn’t say they would then turn around and negotiate our scope language into the new contract they were negotiating with APFA to leave us out in the cold. In retrospect, it is easy to see how many of us wanted to believe their promises. We had been through so much and made so many sacrifices at TWA to keep the company afloat so we might have the chance to enjoy a more stable future. We are guilty of believing the promise.
APFA made the most foolish decision of all when they unilaterally acted to strip all former TWA flight attendants of all of their seniority and place them at the bottom of the seniority list. This action disrespected the value of seniority and the work that we do regardless of the carrier who employs us. The result was to disrespect themselves and F/A’s everywhere. This non-union mentality put us first in line to be laid off in a reduction in force, and reduce the workforce they did. By July 2003, every single former TWA flight attendant was on the street while TWA’s planes and other assets continue to work for the benefit of others. If APFA ever hopes to rehabilitate their reputation of being a company sweetheart in the labor community, they have a long way to go to repair the damage done by their short-sighted actions.
Today AA defends breaking their promises of employment to our group by arguing that we are too costly in comparison to newly hired employees. But, those arguments ring hollow considering that it was AA that made the decision to grant us pay and benefits comparable to our TWA seniority. To tell the government and the TWA employees that they intended to use their reasonable best efforts to see that we received a fair and equitable process of seniority integration, then to cite the cost factor they themselves imposed against us is unethical and underhanded. The fact that not one former TWA F/A is working today at AA speaks volumes about their ethics and intentions.
AA has testified in court that the extension of recall rights for the approximately 4000 former TWA flight attendants would cost the company $10 million. Putting aside the validity of that figure, consider that for a tiny fraction of the $192 million AA will pay out in executive bonuses this April, 4000 careers spanning decades of service could be secured.
TWA Flight Attendants ask that the promises made by American Airlines, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and the International Association of Machinists be kept. We have the right to retire with pride and dignity.