Sister and Brothers,
There is a significant number of things going on in our workplace as well as the world around us, and not all of it good. I’d like to take a little bit of your time to discuss and layout some of these challenges to allow you, the members of Local 502, to better gain an understanding of what is set to occur.
In our Local we have witnessed several different initiatives that have impacted our membership. The first is COVID-19 and the affects it has had on our industry as a whole. The reduced flight activity, the decrease in passenger bookings, the loss of customer flier confidence and the challenges of aircraft sanitization have dominated the work we do. Securing a safe and healthy workplace for all our members has had its own set of difficulties, mainly due to failure to observe the CDC guidelines, policies and procedures put in place for us all and to maintain social distancing and face coverings. I would like to emphasize that the coronavirus is real and with real effects on anyone that has it or may have had it.
As a byproduct of the COVID-19, American Airlines had presented our membership with voluntary leaves for extended periods of time and early out programs to reduce the number of headcount on property during these current working conditions. Around this same time the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act was introduced from Washington DC to protect the payroll of the frontline or essential workers. By having this protection in play, the air carriers would not need to concern themselves with pay issues until September 30th when the CARES Act is due to expire. A move was made to offer another round of VLOA and VEOP options to the membership as an attempt to reduce the number of members on property. Not getting the number of participants anticipated by the company, American moved to notify the Union of potential layoffs through a Reduction in Force. The Union strongly disagrees with that notion due to protections ratified in the New Agreement. Such as, status protection full-time and part-time, station protection and system protection. This, through negotiations, meant that on the date of ratification, March 26th, 2020, if you were full-time or part-time your status was guaranteed, the station you worked in was guaranteed and if you had to leave your station due to a station closing, you would have system protection. Remember, it was American Airlines that stated prior to ratification, “Anyone working at American today will have that job for as long as they wanted to work at American”.
Now the company, through their legal team, believes they have the right to layoff, even though these protections exist in the JCBA. As such the company, while conforming with the Law required in 20 States in the Union, have sent out WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act notices to members they project would be impacted. I will say the number is a high estimate and some members who receive a notice may not be affected. We are presently moving numbers around through the VLOA, VEOP, insourcing of Stations that were previously closed in bankruptcy but regained through contractual language and activating the transfer lists for other folks with no recall right to move to some of these locations should have an impact on the overall number of members affected by a RIF.
I urge every member to know your rights under this new agreement, there have been considerable changes made. The Bump and Roll methodology, for example, where if affected by a RIF you may, by your seniority, choose where you want to go versus previous contractual language where you could only fill a vacancy, regardless if there were junior members in other locations of interest. It is important to note if an option is available in the station you are in, you must use that option in station before you can use an option out of station. My hope is that it won’t come to this exercise. The Unions has presented a proposal to Washington DC lawmakers to extend the PSP (Payroll Support Protection) and most Airlines have signed on to support this initiative. If successful, this would extend the protections we have today, which is due to expire September 30th 2020, to be extended to March 31st 2021 and subsequently eliminate the threat of layoffs to allow an opportunity for business to return to the industry and or get closer to a vaccine for COVID-19. The Local Executive Board will continue to update you with information as it is received.
In closing, I want to wish everyone good health and remain safe in these extraordinary times.
TWU Local 502