Strength Through Solidarity: Grievance Committee Members Convene in Philadelphia

Strength Through Solidarity: Grievance Committee Members Convene in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA – Hundreds of Grievance Committee Members from the Machinists Union gathered in Philadelphia to discuss the future of work in the airline industry.

A major focus of the deliberations was the upcoming contract negotiations at American and United Airlines, both of which are likely to fall under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, often referred to simply as “Section 6.”

Last year, Union Negotiators were optimistic that Section 6 could be avoided at United Airlines in favor of an expedited process that would have delivered an agreement to union members much faster. The carrier had initially agreed to keep the negotiations focused on a few contractual provisions deemed critical to front-line union members. Unfortunately, the company began using endless stalling tactics that threatened to drag negotiations out indefinitely, making the expedited process impossible.

Section 6 outlines the procedure for amending and renegotiating existing collective bargaining agreements in the airline and railroad sectors. Typically, Section 6 negotiations can take several years to complete.

The Railway Labor Act was initially established to prevent disruptions in interstate commerce due to strikes and other job actions that could create economic havoc. The Act mandates that both parties, in this case, the union and the airlines, engage in extended discussions once changes to the prevailing agreement are proposed. These changes can encompass rates of pay, rules, or working conditions. A critical aspect of Section 6 is its emphasis on maintaining the status quo during negotiations, preventing companies from unilaterally imposing pay cuts, mass layoffs, or other policy changes.

The conference, held within the historic Penns Landing area of Philadelphia, zeroed in on the upcoming Section 6 contract negotiations at industry giants United Airlines and American Airlines. These negotiations are set to redefine standards for pay, working conditions, and work-life balance for thousands, impacting both union and non-union workers, but are showing signs they may be lengthy.

Tom Regan, Airline Coordinator for the Machinists Union Air Transport Territory, and Mike Klemm, President and Directing General Chair of Machinists District 141, were among the luminaries who addressed the attendees.

The event was hosted by Larry Reeves from Local Lodge 1776 in Philadelphia.

Machinists Union District 141 includes 40,000 airline workers at American, Hawaiian, Philippine, Spirit, and United Airlines. The union’s reach in commercial aviation means that decisions made by union members will shape the rest of the industry.

The pandemic’s aftermath saw a strategic move by airlines to encourage senior agents towards early retirement. This strategy has led to a scenario where nearly half of all airline workers are relatively new to the industry. Many of these workers, coming from non-union professional backgrounds, are still acclimatizing to the nuances of the collective bargaining process and union dynamics. President Klemm’s call to action emphasized the need for seasoned committee members to mentor and engage these newcomers.
The conference also highlighted the altered dynamics between airlines and union grievance committees in the wake of the pandemic. With many workers being novices in the industry, there exists a gap between their union action expectations and the realistic outcomes. Addressing this gap is pivotal, according to District President Klemm.

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Strength Through Solidarity: Grievance Committee Members Convene in Philadelphia

October 12, 2023

PHILADELPHIA – Hundreds of Grievance Committee Members from the Machinists Union gathered in Philadelphia to discuss the future of work in the airline industry.

A major focus of the deliberations was the upcoming contract negotiations at American and United Airlines, both of which are likely to fall under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, often referred to simply as “Section 6.”

Last year, Union Negotiators were optimistic that Section 6 could be avoided at United Airlines in favor of an expedited process that would have delivered an agreement to union members much faster. The carrier had initially agreed to keep the negotiations focused on a few contractual provisions deemed critical to front-line union members. Unfortunately, the company began using endless stalling tactics that threatened to drag negotiations out indefinitely, making the expedited process impossible.

Section 6 outlines the procedure for amending and renegotiating existing collective bargaining agreements in the airline and railroad sectors. Typically, Section 6 negotiations can take several years to complete.

The Railway Labor Act was initially established to prevent disruptions in interstate commerce due to strikes and other job actions that could create economic havoc. The Act mandates that both parties, in this case, the union and the airlines, engage in extended discussions once changes to the prevailing agreement are proposed. These changes can encompass rates of pay, rules, or working conditions. A critical aspect of Section 6 is its emphasis on maintaining the status quo during negotiations, preventing companies from unilaterally imposing pay cuts, mass layoffs, or other policy changes.

The conference, held within the historic Penns Landing area of Philadelphia, zeroed in on the upcoming Section 6 contract negotiations at industry giants United Airlines and American Airlines. These negotiations are set to redefine standards for pay, working conditions, and work-life balance for thousands, impacting both union and non-union workers, but are showing signs they may be lengthy.

Tom Regan, Airline Coordinator for the Machinists Union Air Transport Territory, and Mike Klemm, President and Directing General Chair of Machinists District 141, were among the luminaries who addressed the attendees.

The event was hosted by Larry Reeves from Local Lodge 1776 in Philadelphia.

Machinists Union District 141 includes 40,000 airline workers at American, Hawaiian, Philippine, Spirit, and United Airlines. The union’s reach in commercial aviation means that decisions made by union members will shape the rest of the industry.

The pandemic’s aftermath saw a strategic move by airlines to encourage senior agents towards early retirement. This strategy has led to a scenario where nearly half of all airline workers are relatively new to the industry. Many of these workers, coming from non-union professional backgrounds, are still acclimatizing to the nuances of the collective bargaining process and union dynamics. President Klemm’s call to action emphasized the need for seasoned committee members to mentor and engage these newcomers.
The conference also highlighted the altered dynamics between airlines and union grievance committees in the wake of the pandemic. With many workers being novices in the industry, there exists a gap between their union action expectations and the realistic outcomes. Addressing this gap is pivotal, according to District President Klemm.

Related

American Airlines Union Members Launch Pre-Negotiation Surveys

American Airlines Union Members Launch Pre-Negotiation Surveys

American Airlines Union Members Launch Pre-Negotiation SurveysUnion members at American Airlines, including thousands of workers in the Fleet Service workgroup, are gearing up to start contract negotiations in the upcoming months, according to a joint statement...

Pre-Negotiation Surveys at American Airlines are Now Open

Pre-Negotiation Surveys at American Airlines are Now Open

To all Fleet Service Association Members employed at American Airlines:We are contractually permitted to begin Section 6 Negotiations with American Airlines in September of this year. In preparation for those negotiations, we will be surveying all Association Members...

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