The JetBlue / Spirit Merger and the Threat to Job Security

The JetBlue / Spirit Merger and the Threat to Job Security

The JetBlue-Spirit Merger and the Risk to Job Security

Organizing
9 August 2022

The JetBlue and Spirit merger presents a significant risk to the job security of those workers who do not have contractual employment protections. Why?

“Asset divestitures can smooth the way to antitrust approval.We have a path to close this deal,”
-CEO Robin Hayes

The JetBlue-Spirit merger will have to receive approval from the federal government to be finalized. With airfares soaring and countless operational problems, it is expected that the Biden Administration will be VERY apprehensive to approve any airline merger. This is especially true for the JetBlue-Spirit merger, as the Biden Administration has already sued JetBlue and American, alleging the airlines’ Northeast Alliance is a de facto merger that hurts competition in the New York and Boston markets. So what will JetBlue have to do to gain regulatory approval for its merger with Spirit?

Two words: Divest operations to address the issue of competition. So, for example, where JetBlue and Spirit both have significant operations—think FLL, MCO and other locations—to gain approval for the merger JetBlue will have to give up a portion of its flight schedule to other airline/s. That means JetBlue is bound to divest in many locations, which means a reduction of the current combined flights of Spirit and JetBlue. And that affects jobs. 

And, if the merger is ultimately approved, a big if, it will not happen until the first half of 2024. A lot can happen in 15-18 months. There can be an economic slowdown, happening now as the GDP has decreased in the last two quarters, or a significant change in the leadership philosophy of the combined carrier. 

JetBlue management’s objective, as stated in its latest second-quarter earnings report, is to get the merger with Spirit approved and to implement a severe cost containment strategy with its newly announced “Enterprise Planning Team.” 

What does that mean for outsourcing and general job security? Future wage and benefit improvements? Work rule enhancements? 

The only way that JetBlue GO Crewmembers will be able to have a say in their future is by having a seat at the table. Not by being on the menu.

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Machinists Union: Defending Workers’ Rights is the Top Priority in JetBlue-Spirit Tie-Up

Machinists Union: Defending Workers’ Rights is the Top Priority in JetBlue-Spirit Tie-Up

Machinists Union Says Defending Workers’ Rights is the Top Priority in JetBlue-Spirit Tie-Up

Organizing
8 July 2022

JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines this morning announced that the two airlines plan to merge to create the nation’s fifth largest carrier. Spirit Airlines shareholders yesterday rejected Frontier Airlines’ bid to merge and cleared the way for JetBlue’s $3.8 billion all-cash offer to combine the two carriers.

“As we know from the history of airline mergers and acquisitions, top executives will promise the world to gain regulatory approval. But, when the dust is settled and approval is granted, airline workers almost always get the short end of the stick,” said IAM Air Transport General Vice President Richard Johnsen. “The Machinists Union is the most powerful and experienced union when it comes to defending airline workers’ rights during mergers. We have done it before and we will do it again. IAM members at Spirit Airlines and future IAM members at JetBlue Airways will have their interests defended, just as every IAM member has during previous mergers.”

It’s expected that the proposed merger will face stiff regulatory approval from the Biden Administration. JetBlue already faces opposition from the Justice Department, which has sued to break up its commercial agreement with American Airlines Group Inc. The regulators allege that the partnership — which targets the New York and Boston markets — is anti-competitive.

“I want all IAM members at Spirit Airlines to know the Machinists Union will ensure your contract is enforced during this process and that your rights will be defended,” continued Johnsen. “I also want all the JetBlue Ground Operations Crewmembers to know that your campaign to gain IAM representation takes on even more importance now. It is urgent that you have a seat at the table, so you’re not on the menu.”

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Machinists Union Contract Will Remain In Effect After Spirit / Frontier Merger

Machinists Union Contract Will Remain In Effect After Spirit / Frontier Merger

8 February 2022

Machinists Union Contract Will Remain In Effect After Spirit / Frontier Merger

As you are aware, Spirit Airlines has entered into a merger agreement with Frontier Airlines. First and foremost, I want you to know that our newly-ratified contract with Spirit remains in full force, including essential provisions that protect ramp workers’ jobs, seniority, and wages, among other vital protections, during a merger. 

Article One (Section G) of the Agreement between your union and Spirit Airlines contains Merger Protections that will specifically protect the seniority rights of union members. Our contract requires that any seniority integrations with non-union employees at Frontier be fair and that all union rights be respected. Additionally, Article Three (Section I) states very clearly, “The Company shall not outsource any Ramp Service work at its FLL station during the term of this Agreement.” 

Undergoing a merger can be stressful for non-union employees who lack the protection of a legally-binding union contract. However, I want to reassure all union members that our agreement will remain legally binding for the new company. I encourage everyone to study these contractual rights and how well they protect union members at Spirit. Machinists Union Members can find the Spirit Agreement online at IAM141.org. Look for the Spirit Contract under the “Airlines and Agreements” tab. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be working with Spirit to ensure that the rights of Machinists Union members are respected and that every provision of our collective bargaining agreement is honored. If you have any questions or concerns about this topic, please do not hesitate to contact Assistant General Chair Tony Gibson by email at tgibson@IAM141.org or by phone at (313) 815-9622.

In Solidarity,

Michael G. Klemm

President & Directing General Chair,
IAMAW District 141

Recording Secretaries: Please print and post on all IAMAW bulletin boards.

98% At Spirit Vote YES on New Contract!

98% At Spirit Vote YES on New Contract!

98% At Spirit Vote YES on New Contract!

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Following nearly seven months of concentrated negotiations, union members at Spirit Airlines voted to approve a five-year contract with the airline by an astonishing 98% margin. 

The agreement will include retroactive pay raises, overall compensation hikes, and create new, higher-earning positions for union members to fill. The new deal will also give paid vacations to part-time workers for the first time. Previously, part-time agents at Spirit were only given unpaid time off instead of vacation time. 

The higher wages will bring Spirit ramp workers significantly closer to industry-standard income levels, a long-standing goal for union members at the airline. As the largest transportation and aerospace union in North America, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) has played a leading role in establishing wage standards for gate and ticket counter agents in commercial aviation. Contracts negotiated by Machinists-represented airline workers at airlines like American, United, Hawaiian, Southwest, and others have created upwards pressure on airlines to pay their employees well. 

Images courtesy of Tim Nestler

The new Spirit Agreement creates the most significant pay increases for ground workers in the airline’s history. The average wage increase is about 30% and includes retroactive payments dating back to October 24. Before the new contract was ratified by union members at Spirit, the top wage was $15.15 an hour. The highest pay bracket will now increase to $23 an hour, and over the life of the agreement will rise to $24.78.

The new contract will also provide part-time agents with sick pay and doubles the time union members can remain on sick leave and retain their seniority. 

For Lead Negotiator Tony Gibson, the deal represents a victory not only for what it wins – but also for what it doesn’t lose. “We’re coming out of a pandemic right now, the same pandemic that crippled airlines for nearly a year,” Gibson said. “And, despite all that, our members at Spirit didn’t give up anything. This contract will make the Spirit workplace better – and only better. There are no concessions in this agreement.”

The agreement comes just weeks after company negotiators at Spirit had asked that talks enter mediation, a process that could have pulled the brakes on finding a deal before the holidays. Fortunately, the company and union reached a tentative agreement only two weeks later, avoiding time-consuming mediation.

Our members can stand proud in the work of the committee, which held strong for improving the economic provisions that sets a tone of respect on the job and compensation to match” said IAMAW Chief of Staff Richard Johnsen of the agreement. “This proposal is the result of our strong negotiations team and it will help improve the livelihood of each and every member at Spirit Airlines.”

“The negotiating committee held strong with our demands for improved wages and other demands voiced by our members,” Airline Coordinator Tom Regan said. “These hard-working men and women have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This proposed labor contract rewards that dedication by each and every member who has made sure all Spirit Airlines’ passengers get to their destination safely.”

“I want to thank our IAM Negotiating Committee at Spirit for the outstanding work they’ve accomplished with this agreement. I particularly want to recognize the contributions of Local 368 members Almarie Jean, Linda Germain, Christopher Willis, and Gregory De La Cruz, who helped put this deal together,” said District 141 President and Directing General Chair Mike Klemm. “Along with District 141 Assistant General Chairs Andrea’ Myers, and Lead Negotiator Tony Gibson, this team spent countless hours away from loved ones to create a better workplace for our Spirit membership.”

Below – the IAMAW District 141 Spirit Negotiating Committee. Bottom row, from right: Almarie Jean, Linda Germain, AGC Andrea’ Myers, Chris Willis. Top row, from right: AGC & Lead Negotiator Tony Gibson, Gregory De La Cruz, and IAMAW District 141 President and Directing General Chair, Mike Klemm.

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Tentative Agreement Reached at Spirit Airlines

Tentative Agreement Reached at Spirit Airlines

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Machinists Union District 141 Reaches Tentative Agreement With Spirit Airlines on New Five Year Pact 

I am proud to announce that Machinists Union District 141 has reached a Tentative Agreement with Spirit Airlines on a truly groundbreaking new five-year contract.

This Agreement will create the highest wages and overall compensation rates for ramp agents in the airline’s history. Our members will receive wage increases that are, on average, 30% higher than they are now. Lead premium increases, more opportunities for double-time pay, and new trainer positions will allow our members to earn even more from the work they currently do.

If ratified, this deal will also bring paid vacations to part-time agents. For some, this will be the first real vacation they have ever known.

I want to thank our IAM Negotiating Committee at Spirit for the outstanding work they’ve accomplished with this Agreement. I particularly want to recognize the contributions of Local 368 members Almarie Jean, Linda Germain, Christopher Willis, and Gregory De La Cruz, who helped put this deal together. Along with District 141 Assistant General Chairs Andrea’ Myers, and Lead Negotiator Tony Gibson, this team spent countless hours away from loved ones to create a better workplace for our Spirit membership.

I’d also like to thank the International, Spirit Airlines’ negotiators, and the National Mediation Board for their vital assistance in finalizing this Tentative Agreement.

The Spirit Airlines management team was respectful to our negotiators, and I believe they were honestly working in a good-faith effort to create this Agreement. The Spirit team recognized that workers are an asset to be invested in, not a liability to be minimized, and they deserve credit for that.

The Negotiating Committee unanimously recommends ratification of the Tentative Agreement. Complete text copies of the Tentative Agreement will be distributed locally before the ratification vote on November 4, 2021.

In solidarity,

Mike Klemm

President and Directing General Chair,
IAMAW District 141

Recording Secretaries: Please print and post on all IAMAW bulletin boards.

141 Report: Paws for Pascarella

141 Report: Paws for Pascarella

Our 141 report this week takes us to IAM local lodge 1759 in Herndon, Virginia, as the membership conducted the annual Paws for Pascarella Guide Dogs of America charity event.

 

141 Report: Paws for Pascarella

Our 141 report this week takes us to IAM local lodge 1759 in Herndon, Virginia, as the membership conducted the annual Paws for Pascarella Guide Dogs of America charity event.

The video report begins with an update from District President Mike Klemm, who traveled to Dulles Airport to conduct a station visit with the United Airlines membership. In the Video podcast, Brother Klemm informs the membership about this week’s trip to the United Airlines hub at Dulles Airport and Local 1759.  

 On Tuesday, Mike attended the monthly Lodge meeting and spoke to the members about the vaccine mandates at American and United Airlines. He also talked about the status of the ongoing negotiations at Spirit Airlines. Spirit has recently entered mediation proceedings.

Mike said, “We’ll be working with the mediation board to hopefully get a tentative agreement for our members of Spirit to vote on.” Brother Klemm also talked about the upcoming negotiation with United Airlines. Mike stated, “We should be seeing a communication coming out on that in the very near future.” 

Mike continues the report by saying he went over to the airport to visit multiple shifts and multiple briefings for members at United. He answered questions about the mandate and vaccine, as well as responding to questions about negotiations. Mike said it was “a real good visit.” Mike walked the property with 141 VP at East Barb Martin, who also serves as the committee chairman in Dulles, Mike Cyscon, the AGC assigned to the ramp, and Rich Creighton, who serves as AGC to customer service above the wing. Joe Washburn, the southeast regional EAP, also joined Mike on the visit. Brother Klemm thanked the local committee, Bill Hoover, Bill Peer, Sherry Curtis, President Bill Huston, and his entire 1759 executive board for their hospitality. 

Mike then talked about the fundraising event for guide dogs that he attended. The 1759 Charity event was In honor of his former AGC, Rich Pascarella, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. “Rich not only was a phenomenal union rep and an outstanding AGC but also a personal friend of mine and it’s actually his birthday today.” Mike said of the beloved unionist.

The following guest speaker was Sherrie Curtis from local 1759, the UA Customer Service Committee person at Dulles Airport. “We’re here tonight celebrating our second annual event for Rich Pascarella.” The Charity Top Golf event took place in Loudoun County, having about 60 people that showed up to celebrate and raise funds for Guide Dogs of America. IAM members came from Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Sherrie reports that Rich Passcarella families came to town driving in from Pittsburgh to celebrate a good time with us. 

Donations came rolling in from Locals 914 in Newark and 1776 in Philadelphia, donating $500 each to sponsor a golfing bay to support GDA. 

In the last part of the report, Dave talks to 1759 UA member Ron Rukenbrod who describes how he and his committee put the event together. He spoke of getting donations from local stores, wineries, and brewhouses for many charity baskets they put together. Ron said, “If you send out 100 letters and you only get 20 people to donate, you’re still 20 people ahead. So it’s always good to just overextend. Ron speaks about the support from the 141 Community Service Director, Cristina Odoardi, saying, “she’s been wonderful reaching out to us; what can I do? What can I do? We’ve been very fortunate”. 

If your local is interested in putting a community service event together, be sure to contact Sister Cristina at codoardi@iam141.org.