Association of Professional Flight Attendants
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|Full name||Association of Professional Flight Attendants, APFA|
|Office location||Euless, Texas|
Founded in 1977, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) is the largest independent flight attendant union in the nation. It represents the nearly 25,000 flight attendants at American Airlines. Laura Glading was elected president of APFA in February 2008 and elected to a second term in February 2012. APFA members live in almost every state of the nation as well as several countries and serve millions of Americans as they travel the nation and the world. In 2003, APFA played a major role in keeping American Airlines solvent and out of bankruptcy by giving back an employee bailout of $340 million in annual salary and benefits, for a total of over $3 billion. APFA had been in negotiations with American for almost four years when the carrier filed for chapter 11-bankruptcy protection on November 29, 2011.
Apr 2003: American Airlines, following total losses of $5.3 billion in 2001 and 2002, undergoes what was called a “virtual bankruptcy.” Management uses the threat of bankruptcy to achieve concessions from unionized employees in the amount of $1.8 billion annually. Despite the new cost structure, American will continue to lose money through 2011.
Nov 2011: After years of losses, plunging stock prices, contract negotiations, and failed business strategies, American Airlines files for Chapter 11 protection in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Arpey resigns as CEO and is replaced by longtime American executive Tom Horton. In a statement, Horton says he intends to use bankruptcy to “reduce our labor costs to competitive levels.”
Dec 2011: Shortly after the filing, the US Trustee appoints the Unsecured Creditors Committee (UCC). All three of the unions on the property are awarded a seat, as are the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), Boeing Capital, Hewlett-Packard, and three major bond-holders. The UCC represents the interest of parties who are owed money by the bankrupt company and who do not have any collateral standing behind their claim. The committee becomes the de facto Board of Directors throughout the restructuring. Although the APA and TWU send representatives to the UCC, Laura Glading chooses to sit on the committee herself.
Jan 2012: The PBGC sends a public signal in support of American’s unions when its director, Josh Gotbaum, states that his agency is prepared to fight to prevent American from using bankruptcy to shed its pension plans. The PBGC is the federal agency that backstops retirees’ benefits when a company pension plan fails.
Feb 2012: American releases its Term Sheets detailing the concessions it will seek from labor under Section 1113 of the Bankruptcy Code. Section 1113 allows for bankrupt companies to void their labor contracts and impose new concessionary agreements with only the approval of the Judge necessary. Typically, the threat of imposed draconian contracts motivates unions to achieve mutual agreements on concessionary contracts. The term sheet American executives offers APFA include dramatic cuts to wages, benefits, and work rules, and the loss of hundreds of flight attendant jobs.
Mar 2012: Facing pressure from APFA, Allied Pilots Association (APA), Transport Workers Union of America (TGWU), the PBGC and others, American backs off its original demand to terminate pensions and instead offers to freeze them. The pension freeze allows employees to keep full benefits accrued before the time of the freeze.
Apr 2012: APFA, APA, and TWU announce that they reached agreements with the management team of US Airways and that the three major unions at American support a merger between the two carriers with the US Airways team in control. This development is without precedent in major airline bankruptcies and is a remarkable move by organized labor to exercise control over its own destiny. APFA’s bridge agreement with US Airways provides a temporary contract while the two carriers merge followed by a guaranteed network-rate contract. Additionally, the agreement includes a Voluntary Early-Out Program that allows flight attendants to take a lump sum payment and retire. Like the demands from American, the deal with US Airways is concessionary. However, US Airways’ plan for the merged airline allows the company to grow and compete, offering long-term job stability.
Aug 2012: Faced with the prospect of living under American’s draconian term sheet, APFA approves management’s Last, Best, and Final Offer (LBFO). Although the LBFO represents substantial improvements to the term sheet, including the VEOP, it is still a very concessionary agreement. APFA, APA, and TWU remain committed to achieving a merger with US Airways inside of bankruptcy. As part of this strategy, TWU also ratifies a concessionary deal. APA rejects its first tentative agreement but a “Me Too” letter, secured by APFA, guarantees that the labor savings from the Pilots Agreement are equivalent to the savings achieved in the flight attendants’ CBA.
Sep 2012: US Airways and American begin to exchange confidential information regarding operations and finances. This cooperation is subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) between the two parties which includes a mandatory “quiet period” during which no party can speak publicly about the merger talks. Also bound by this agreement are the members of the UCC, including APFA.
Nov 2012: APA negotiates a second TA and sends it out for a membership vote. On December 7, the Pilots ratified the TA. APFA Negotiating Team is reviewing the new agreement in order to quantify any improvements the pilots may have achieved. The “Me, Too” Letter secured in August mandates that the value of the changes to the Pilots’ Agreement and flight attendants’ Agreement are equivalent.
Feb 2013: AA and US Airways announce their plans to merge. Never before have the organized labor groups of a bankrupt airline played such a role in determining their own destiny. Never before have the workers stood up to the gamed system that is the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and forced the better option on their own management. It has never happened before and is a true testament to the American Airlines Flight Attendants. AA Flight Attendants will have lived under bankruptcy cuts for approximately one year (10/1/12 LBFO to Fall 2013 BK exit). This is the shortest amount of time any flight attendant workgroup will have had to live under a contract in bankruptcy.
More than 90 percent of the 21,000 members honored the 11 day strike called on November 18, virtually shutting the airline down.