Machinists Union Air Transport Chief Demands JetBlue Restore Workers’ Hours and Pay

Machinists Union Air Transport Chief Demands JetBlue Restore Workers’ Hours and Pay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact:
James Carlson (202) 500-3916 jcarlson@iamaw.org

Machinists Union Air Transport Chief Demands JetBlue Restore Workers’ Hours and Pay

WASHINGTON D.C., August 22, 2022—International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Air Transport General Vice President Richard Johnsen today demanded that JetBlue Airways management immediately reverse its decision to cut JetBlue Ground Operations workers’ hours and pay.

Earlier this month, JetBlue management announced cuts to Ground Operations workers’ hours in certain locations on the airline’s system. In many cases, these cuts will result in a 20 percent reduction in pay. “The lack of respect JetBlue management has for its Ground Operations workers is utterly unacceptable. They just spent $3.8 billion to merge with Spirit Airlines and now they cut the hours and pay of the very workers who they claim will benefit from JetBlue’s merger with Spirit,” said IAM Air Transport General Vice President Richard Johnsen. “The IAM will not stand by as JetBlue management takes advantage of the hard-working women and men who have made JetBlue a success. They deserve better.”

JetBlue Ground Operations workers are currently pushing to file for a union election with the Machinists Union, the largest airline union in North America. The goal is to win union representation with the IAM and negotiate a contract that will advance and protect their interests during the merger process with Spirit Airlines. “I want every JetBlue Ground Operations worker to know that the IAM stands with you in your effort to unionize with the IAM and gain a voice in the future of your airline,” continued Johnsen. “JetBlue management needs to stop speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Publicly, CEO Hayes paints the rosiest of pictures when he lauds the benefits of its $3.8 billion merger with Spirit.

But, behind the scenes Ground Ops employees are working in very tough conditions, and now many of them have to contend with hour and pay cuts of up to 20 percent.

Make no mistake, our friends in Congress will be fully informed regarding what’s going on at JetBlue.” Recently, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines announced a $3.8 billion merger agreement. The merger is expected to receive intense scrutiny by the federal government, as airlines have struggled with operational reliability and rising air fares.

The IAM is the largest airline union in North America. 

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

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JetBlue Ground Operations Crewmembers, please sign a card authorizing a union election at JetBlue.

Request an Authorization Card Here >>

The End of Airline Mask Mandates

The End of Airline Mask Mandates

The End of Airline Mask Mandates

COVID-19
19 April 2022

Mask mandates have been an inescapable part of air travel for more than two years. A recent study of Machinist Union members in commercial aviation suggests that most airline workers are ready for them to end.

A recent study of Machinists Union views on mask mandates within the airline industry found that most union members are ready to ditch mask mandates. 69% of participants said Federal mask mandates at airports should be lifted “as soon as possible,” with another 6% saying that they should be allowed to expire. Together, 75% of union members participating in the study favored lifting mask mandates. Only 11% thought that Federal authorities should extend mandates for airports. Union members were not anti-mask, however. 29% of respondents said they planned to continue wearing a mask at least part of the time, regardless of whether or not they were mandated. 

The study comes as a federal judge struck down Federal mandates on Monday, citing administrative errors and claiming that the Centers for Disease Control lacked authority to implement such requirements. The rules have been in place since April of 2020, when the CDC first began recommending them, and have been repeatedly extended. Masking rules had been set to expire on April 18 but were extended to May 3. The court ruling means that the mandates will expire at once. International travelers will still need to follow regulations adopted by nations that continue to require masking. 

In the wake of the ruling, all major airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that they would no longer enforce mask rules. Instead, masks will become optional for those who want to wear them for safety reasons. 

“While this means that you are no longer required to wear a mask – and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public – we ask that you respect the decision of those employees or customers who choose to do so, as the CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask on public transit,” United Airlines said in a statement to employees. 

Federal mask mandates have been a sharp trigger point for airline passengers since they were implemented in April of 2020. More than 7,000 attacks on airline workers have been reported since the pandemic began, the vast majority occurring as gate agents and flight crews attempted to enforce masking rules. In a typical year, airlines would only report about 150 such attacks. More than 3,000 attacks have been reported in 2021, a year that is only in its fourth month. 

The Biden Administration has not immediately announced whether or not it will appeal the decision but continues to recommend that passengers wear masks while traveling. The Administration may both allow the mandates to end while at the same time appealing the ruling. 

The decision, handed down by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, includes a few perplexing statements. While a popular decision among passengers and unionized airline workers, the ruling may nevertheless invite scrutiny. (The decision can be read here.)

In her ruling, Judge Mizelle claims that the Federal governments’ authority to control infectious diseases is limited to “measures that clean something,” since they often use the word “sanitation” in describing the responsibilities of state and local governments. 

“At most,” she wrote of masking, “it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask nor ‘sanitizes’ the conveyance.” If Congress had intended to use the word “sanitation” as the defendants defined the term, she wrote, the government would gain the power to force people to start “coughing into elbows” and take daily multivitamins. “Wearing a mask means nothing,” she concluded.

She also found that the public was not granted sufficient opportunity to comment on the mandates and that they must be struck down in their entirety due to the difficulty in granting exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Judge Mizelle was rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. 

The scope of the decision could potentially limit the ability of the CDC to combat viral outbreaks in the future if allowed to stand in its entirety. 

While the flying public and airline workers may prefer a more solid court ruling, the end of masking requirements seems to be a popular and welcome development. 

At least one airline, Alaska Airlines, warns that those passengers who attacked airline workers and other travelers after being told to mask up would still not be allowed back on planes. “Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded,” the airline said in a statement released on Monday. 

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Airlines Call For End to Mask Mandates

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24 March 2022

Ten airlines and air cargo carriers are asking President Joe Biden to lift Federal mask mandates for travelers. They are also calling for an end to testing requirements for international travel.

In a joint statement, the airlines argued that the mandates are no longer necessary and create an ongoing burden for airlines.

“The high level of immunity in the U.S., availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to use them, hospital-grade cabin air, widespread vaccine availability, and newly available therapeutics provide a strong foundation for the Administration to lift the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirements,” the statement read. 

The letter was jointly signed by the CEOs of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air Worldwide, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and UPS Airlines.

The letter also argues that those who wish to continue wearing masks are free to do so. 

Masking mandates were scheduled to end on March 18 but were extended amid ongoing surges and new, more transmissible variants. The issue will be reviewed on 18 April, when the Administration will decide whether or not to extend the mandate or allow it to expire. 

“It is critical to recognize that the burden of enforcing both the mask and predeparture testing requirements has fallen on our employees for two years now,” the statement read. “This is not a function they are trained to perform and subjects them to daily challenges by frustrated customers. This in turn takes a toll on their own well-being,” it continued. 

According to industry studies from airline unions, mask mandates have led to more than 4,000 attacks on airline employees tasked with enforcing Federal rules. In 2021, there were more than 5,500 incidents reported by airline workers. There were typically only about one to two hundred such attacks before the pandemic. In about 40% of these cases, airline managers and police did not follow up abuse with serious consequences. About 70% of air rage attacks happen as airline workers attempt to enforce federal masking mandates. 

You can read the entire statement here.

 

Motion on the Floor: Should Federal Mask Mandates for Airlines Be Lifted?

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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.

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