On November 13th, the Airline Division hosted a meeting of Principal Officers, Business Agents and the 10 rank-and-file members of the National Seniority Integration Committee representing the new United Airlines. The Airline Division called the meeting in order to resolve disagreements among the National SIC over what method should be used to integrate the seniority lists as well as the applicability of the Consent Decree. The Division believed it was in everyone’s best interest to resolve these disagreements promptly, as both suggested alternatives had the very real potential of winding up in federal court and in front of an arbitrator. If that happened, the amalgamation negotiations would have ground to a stop until the federal court litigation and arbitration were completed – processes that likely would take years to complete.
The meeting began with introductions and a history of what had transpired over the course of the last year. It was explained to the group that there were several legal opinions gathered as well as the input of Arbitrator/Mediator Ralph Berger regarding the Consent Decree and its applicability to the combined group upon ratification of an amalgamated contract. All of the experts agreed that efforts to terminate or amend the Consent Decree through federal court litigation likely would not succeed given the high legal hurdles that exist. In addition to the limited chance of success, the Principal Officers agreed that the litigation process would be lengthy and extremely expensive. It was felt the better course of action was to secure strong job protections, including no-furlough protections as strong as or even stronger than the ones that are in the existing agreements. The Principal Officers also agreed that two members of the National Seniority Integration Committee will assist the negotiating committee to help achieve these critical job protections.
The Airline Division also addressed the idea of a rank ratio for the purposes of bidding. It is the opinion of the Division that this idea goes against the very core of unionism and has been destructive in other work groups that have used it.
The group was also made aware that the 55 member rank and file steering committee recently agreed to enter expedited bargaining with the carrier.
The Airline Division then informed the group that it would not commence or support litigation seeking to terminate or amend the Consent Decree, and that it opposed the use of rank ratio method to integrate the seniority lists. The Airline Division also advised that it would not finance any federal litigation or arbitration regarding these matters. The Principal Officers were then asked if any of them planned to either appeal the Decree or attempt to arbitrate for the purposes of rank ratio. None of the Principal Officers were willing to proceed down these paths. The Airline Division then declared that this matter is now considered closed institutionally and the integration will proceed under the constraints of the Consent Decree and without using a rank ratio method to integrate the lists.
The committee now has several issues to work through including how to handle premium seniority, how to fairly apply the rules of the Decree for the sCO and sCMI groups, as well as other matters, such as tie breakers for future employees.
The committee will meet on November 27th -28th with a follow up meeting on December 10th -14th. Future dates will be discussed at these upcoming meetings.