Dec 21, 2002

Transportation Unions Assail Airline Industry 02-24-03

Call for Airline Labor-Management Summit....

AFL-CIO Transportation Unions Assail Airline Industry
Campaign to Gut Collective Bargaining Rights
Call for Airline Labor-Management Summit
Hollywood FL – AFL-CIO transportation leaders today reaffirmed their strong opposition to airline industry calls for winner-take-all, binding arbitration, and condemned the major airlines – who plead poverty when asking workers for massive concessions and the government for taxpayer bailouts – for mounting a top-dollar campaign aimed at the heart of workers’ bargaining rights.
The effort – under the guise of a grassroots coalition led by FedEx, Delta and American – would render collective bargaining under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) meaningless and in the process tilt the balance of power to corporate interests, the union declared. The policy resolution, unanimously adopted by the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), noted that this overreaching initiative by airline CEOs is inspiring labor-management acrimony during a period of financial distress.
It is time for the airlines to stop this senseless legislative campaign, the transportation unions demanded. Too much is at stake to risk rupturing labor-management relations to a degree never seen before.
The TTD leaders vowed to redouble their efforts to defeat such a proposal should it be introduced in Congress, but at the same time urged a high-level summit between labor and management leaders, focused on making the system of collective bargaining work better. This is the road to instituting real reforms that improve, not eviscerate, collective bargaining in the airline industry.
The policy statement noted that it is significant that Southwest Airlines, the most unionized and profitable air carrier, isn’t lobbying in support of this initiative. TTD argued that the RLA is not broken, as over the past 40 years labor and management have settled their contracts more than 97 percent of the time without strikes, lockouts or government intervention. Just since 1997, over 600 disputes have been settled with assistance from the National Mediation Board, with only one-half of 1 percent resulting in any disruption, the statement added.
The transportation labor leaders stated that despite the industry’s legislative attacks on bargaining rights, aviation workers have, since 9/11, mobilized to save their companies from financial collapse. And overall, transportation labor is prepared to do its part to make the case to Congress and the President that this vital industry must be rescued from financial collapse. But if the air carriers persist in this campaign to exterminate collective bargaining rights, they will succeed in diverting our attention from preserving this vital industry to preserving our members’ rights, they warned.
The labor leaders decried supposedly brokecorporations finding the resources to support this industry-front group and its armada of top lobbyists. Perhaps Congress should demand an accounting of how much money is being spent for this lobby group since the airlines are busy asking for more government relief, the TTD leaders said, adding that, These companies should not receive more taxpayer relief if they are using the funds to finance an anti-worker campaign.