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afa-CWA Organizing 2004 - Campaign Notes

On October 6, 2004 the Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America ("afa-CWA") had a meeting in Atlanta for activists. It announced that it was launching yet another campaign to try to organize us. The deltaafa.org website has been updated. It now has a "Letter to Supervisors" crafted by an afa-CWA lawyer, an interference report, and other tools to try to pump up the activists. All of this means that we will be facing increased negativity in our work environment as its activists try to cajole us into supporting the afa-CWA.

While we are still ramping up our effort to oppose the afa-CWA, we have listed some preliminary issues for you to keep in mind when listening to the activists.

The AFA as an independent entity no longer exists.

This new campaign is not a campaign to join a union by flight attendants for flight attendants. Why? The Association of Flight Attendants ("afa") is no more. The afa is now a tiny part of a larger union, the Communications Workers of America("CWA"). Who does the CWA represent? Mr. Telephone man. Thats right, the people that come to your house and fix your telephone. The CWA also represents the people that sit behind desks in call centers. That is those people that are still left in the United States. The CWA does not represent those jobs that it let get outsourced to India, but we digress.

Signing an authorization card for the afa-CWA means that you want to belong to a large multi-class and multi-craft union. The sheer size of the CWA means that the afa is a small minority and will have a correspondingly small voice in directing the larger union.

Currently, the trend in our industry is for workers to be represented by smaller independent unions like AMFA or PFAA. These are unions that represent only a single craft or a single craft at a single company. By subjugating itself and becoming a small part of a large union, the afa became an example of where representation in our industry is not heading. Once again, the afa did the wrong thing at the wrong time.

The afa-CWA is too inept to seize initiative, even in organizing.

Speaking of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, we think that it is a little odd that the afa-CWA is announcing its campaign now. If the afa-CWA really had its act together, it would have started its campaign early this year when the "Finding a Better Way" concessions were announced. At that time, we were mad. The company was caught disingenuously telling us that a pay cut was really not a pay cut when we all could plainly see that it was. Leos departure and the bankruptcy - proof pensions were still fresh on our minds. Yet, at the time we were most ripe for the taking, where was the afa-CWA? Where were the activists with cards?

It missed the golden opportunity to organize us. This inability to capitalize on this gift from Management is just another in the string of tactical blunders characterizes the daily operation of the afa-CWA These blunders are endemic to the afa-CWA, and we Deltafa.org feel that the afa-CWA is just too inept to represent us.

The afa-CWA cannot guarantee wages or work rules for its current members.

Our activists ignore the blunders of the afa-CWA. To them, it is a panacea that will solve all of their (our) problems. They do not see the afa-CWA as inept. Our activists will say that a union would keep Delta from eroding our pay, benefits and work rules. However, the afa-CWAs track record does not support this statement. At United, the company delivered a term sheet to the afa-CWA outlining what concessions that it felt were necessary for United to survive. While there were some changes to the list in the end, the afa-CWA granted the same magnitude of concessions to the company. At United, the afa-CWA did not keep management from eroding work rules, pay, and benefits. See the United afa-CWA website.

At US Airways, the afa-CWA has been through multiple rounds of concessions. Now, the management at US Airways is coming back for more. In their second bankruptcy, their management is asking all employees for additional concessions in the range of 23 percent. At US Airways, the afa-CWA has been unable to prevent the prior rounds of concessions. Now in bankruptcy court, the decision will be left up to a judge if the afa-CWA does not capitulate again on its own. See the afa-CWA USAirways website. 

As the afa-CWAs track record at United and US Airways proves, the afa-CWA cannot prevent the erosion of pay, benefits, and work rules.

Had we elected the afa-CWA in the last campaign, we still would have had changes to our work rules and pay.

Our activists selectively ignore the track record of the afa-CWA in avoiding give backs. In fact, many are fond of saying that if we had elected the afa-CWA in the last campaign, we would not have had the changes to our work rules and benefits. However, those activists are either misinformed or actively trying to mislead you.

The current state of the law is that the status quo is not maintained between the election of a union and a first contract. This means that Delta could have unilaterally imposed any changes that it wanted as long as it was for business purposes, and the afa-CWA could have done nothing but issue another of their ineffectual, whiney "life is not fair" press releases. See Our New Work Rules and Union Protection for a more detailed explanation.

The afa-CWA will bring infighting and lack of direction.

Think that an afa-CWA Delta will not be ineffectual and whiney? Want a taste of potential meetings in a hypothetical afa-CWA represented world?

Subscribe and read Jointogether, the afa-CWA list serv. Even though the e-mail is tightly scripted and heavily edited to be "on message," it still has infighting. Many of the people who are contributing now will be the people in power later. While there are some gifted activists, on the whole, they scare us. Many of the participants clearly do not have the capacity to act as our representatives. Sure, they whine, but they offer no solutions past the statement "we need a union and a legally binding contract."

Deltafa.org supports subscribing to Jointogether. It will open your eyes to a potential future.

Even its members do not like the afa-CWA.

The potential future in an afa-CWA represented world is not a pleasant one. Even if we wanted a union, we would not support the afa-CWA. One of the best indicators of the effectiveness of a union is the opinion of its members. If a unions membership is unhappy with the performance their union, it indicates that the union has severe problems. The afa-CWA has many unhappy members.

For example, the largest airline represented by the afa-CWA is United Airlines. At United, a group of flight attendants have banded together to form the United Flight Attendants Union "UFAU." The goal of the UFAU is to replace the afa-CWA at United. This movement is a real threat, and the afa-CWA is taking the UFAU seriously. For more information about the UFAU and the reasons why we believe that the afa-CWA will be replaced at United, see the UFAU website.

Electing the afa-CWA now does not make sense.

As we have stated before, the status quo is not maintained when a union is elected. Everything is up for negotiation. The process takes years, and we would be unprotected against further concessions during this period.

We are in an industry downturn, and our company is in trouble. Most likely, Delta will be in Bankruptcy before Thanksgiving. Delta owes billions and our revenue from operations is not servicing our debt. Oil has passed fifty dollars a barrel and is expected to reach sixty dollars a barrel. Costs will continue to be high for the foreseeable future. Without money for increases to our pay and benefits, there is no way that the afa-CWA could bring home meaningful increases.

Although the campaign is new, the underlying truth is still the same. We bring more to the afa-CWA in dues and headcount than they bring to us in tangible benefits. If at some time, the afa-CWA could demonstrate a definite advantage, we would change our opinion.

However, electing the afa-CWA now would be like locking in a mortgage when the interest rate is high. It just does not make sense.

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Last modified: December 13, 2008