Unions 101

What is a Union?
Unions are non-manager employees who have banded together to promote their own interests as workers, as well as that of their company and industry as a whole.

The IRS defines “Labor Organizations” as an association of workers who have combined to protect or promote their interests by bargaining collectively with their employers to secure better working conditions, wages, and similar benefits. 

What are "Union Dues?"
Union members contribute dues as a cost-sharing way to pay for things that no single working person could ever be able to afford on their own. Legal fees, organizational costs, contract negotiations, and enforcement are expensive items that can only be paid for through collective effort.

JetBlue Crewmembers will not pay dues until after a contract is negotiated and in effect, and pay and compensation rates are at union levels. Even then, they will pay only partial dues through the first amendable date of their contract.

Do Unions make money through dues?
No. Unions make money through wages.

Unions make more money when they negotiate things like pay increases, better overtime rules, and holiday pay. Unions are workers, and workers get paid when they collect a paycheck. Dues are a cost-sharing way to pay for expensive negotiations and contract enforcement that no single worker could ever afford on their own.

How can my workplace join the Machinists and Aerospace Workers?

The first step is to identify a group of coworkers that can help you organize your workgroup. Together, you and your partners will form an inside committee that will liaison with professionalized union organizers from the IAMAW. It’s best to keep your activities secret at this stage.

Next, your committee will work with IAMAW Organizers to build support for the union drive.

Once you have determined that more than half of your coworkers would be willing to support the effort, the IAMAW will launch a petition at your workplace to authorize a union vote.

This petition will involve having as many coworkers as possible to sign “Authorization Cards” which will trigger a union election, overseen by the Federal Government.

If enough coworkers vote to join the IAMAW during the union vote, JetBlue Ground Operations will be part of the largest organization of Transportation and Aerospace Workers on the planet.

What is a Union Contract?
Negotiating and winning great contracts are some of the most important goals of all unions.

A Contract also called a “Collective Bargaining Agreement,” is a multiyear agreement between unionized workers and managers at a company.

Once negotiated and ratified, a union contract becomes a legal document that can be defended in court. It will give covered employees a solid legal right to all the provisions within the document.

At airlines, employees and Crewmembers work to create contracts that reflect their unique values, priorities, and culture. Some workgroups negotiate contracts that emphasize job security and strong pensions.  Other groups opt for higher hourly wages and better working conditions.

Just as each group of workers is unique, each union contract is also unique. Each contract should represent the best deal that any particular group of workers could reach with any particular company.

What are the main parts of a Union Contract?
While no two contracts will be identical, all IAMAW Contracts will have several sections that protect the things that are most important to Crewmembers.

For example, there are sections that detail agreements on pay, work schedules, health care contributions, pension, and things like day trade rights and seniority-based shift bidding.

Once ratified, Company Bosses cannot change any of these provisions without the approval of Crewmembers and the elected union reps that they choose.

Union contracts should always be fair to both the employees and managers since both parties should want what’s best for the company itself. Union contracts will typically allow managers to do their jobs without interference – as long as they honor their word and operate in a legal, safe, and ethical manner. There are normally clauses that state this explicitly within IAM Contracts, as well. ?

Can a Union Contract guarantee pay and benefit improvements?

Once a contract is negotiated, and an agreement is reached between negotiators and company representatives, it will then go to the Crewmembers for final approval. If most Crewmembers support the proposed agreement (called a “Tentative Agreement”), then it becomes a legally – enforceable document.

Everything in that finished contract is guaranteed by law. If Crewmembers ratify a contract that includes pay raises, then Company Managers are legally obligated to honor their word to them.

Contracts don’t just guarantee pay raises. They also provide legal protections for things like pensions, holiday pay, profit sharing, disciplinary rules, and other things that Union Crewmembers included in their contract.

Does a company legally have to negotiate a contract? What if they refuse to sit down with Crewmembers?
US Labor Law states that both the Crewmembers and the Company must follow what are known as “Good Faith” standards.

The laws that regulate collective bargaining require both sides to respect the negotiating process. For example, both Crewmembers and Managers must agree to meet times and locations that are reasonable for both parties. Neither party may attempt to intimidate or threaten the other side. Unreasonable demands and stonewalling are forbidden and are violations of the Fair Labor Act.

If one side is determined to be bargaining in bad faith, then Federal Authorities may step in.

How are Union Contracts negotiated?
Ground Operations workers, along with gate and ticket counter agents at airlines large and small have created some of the best contracts in history over the past few years. Here’s how they do it. 

The first step is unifying as many workers as possible into a single, powerful collective bargaining group. In unions, solidarity is important. Companies respond better to a solid, unified front than they do to fractured and unorganized individuals. Once all the workers are on the same team, that workgroup becomes the “Union.” Unions are front-line workers, unified and working for their own benefit – as well as the benefit of the company as a whole.

The process of negotiating a contract usually begins with Crewmembers and Company Managers each forming “Negotiating Committees.”

These negotiators will reflect the values and priorities of the respective sides in the negotiation. On the Crewmember side, negotiators will survey their coworkers for guidance on how to create a contract that accurately promotes the interests of Ground Ops Crewmembers.

Additionally, a group of legal experts, industry advisors, labor specialists and experienced, highly trained IAM Negotiators will also participate.

Once the two sides come up with a contract that they think Crewmembers will accept, the result is called a “Tentative Agreement” and is sent out to the entire GO Crewmember workgroup. Once Crewmembers have had a chance to read over all the details, they will vote to either approve the Tentative Agreement or to send it back.

?If approved, the contract is then “ratified,” and will go into effect. If voters reject the Tentative Agreement, the negotiations will resume.

This process will continue until Crewmembers are presented with a Tentative Agreement that they approve of and vote for. ?

Will Crewmembers have to wait until a new contract is negotiated in order to get additional pay and workplace improvements?
No. Improving the workplace is the entire purpose of collective bargaining.

If management wants to throw a pizza party for Crewmembers or hand out bonuses, they are more than welcome to do so at any time. In fact, managers at American Airlines opted to give Crewmembers a raise that was higher than what was negotiated. Nobody is going to file a complaint about great working conditions.

In fact, Machinists and Aerospace Workers around the nation came to the aid of airlines that wanted to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic in a fair and respectful manner. Machinists worked with companies to create pro-worker policies that would give carriers the financial room they needed to survive. Unionized airlines have survived much better than non-union companies – because of strong employee-company partnerships.

But, when companies tried to exploit our members, we fought them; both in court and on Capitol Hill. Machinists and Aerospace members were not laid off or hit with the deep wage cuts seen by non-union workers, including managers.

In cases where the contract itself requires some modification, there is a formal process to do that.

What if managers ignore the contract, and just do whatever they want?
The simplest answer is that many managers will, in fact, ignore the contract and try to do whatever they want. Especially at first, while many of them are not used to front-line workers having strong legal protections.

These managers will learn about the “Grievance Process,” and how union members can enforce contractual agreements made with their employers. This process starts with the formation of Grievance Committees and Union Stewards.

Many GO Crewmembers will be interested in Union Activism once becoming IAM Members. Some GO Crewmembers will want to serve their coworkers by enforcing the contract. These activists will make sure that managers honor the commitments they made to Crewmembers.

Some of these GO Crewmembers will be elected to serve on their local “Grievance Committee.” Grievance Committees are tasked with ensuring that GO Crewmembers are not mistreated at work, that they have safe and orderly workplaces, and that there are no violations of their rights under the contract.

If a dispute between managers and Crewmembers arises, Grievance Committees will file a formal notice, called a “Grievance.” A Grievance is a legal document that states that the Crewmembers believe that the company has violated the contract. Asking union members to do something that is unsafe or illegal will also result in a grievance.