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Airline Division News, Week Ending April 25, 2015

Hostages, Union Fight Back as FlexJet Sued over Illegal Terminations and Union Harassment

Pilots filed a lawsuit against Flexjet, LLC and OneSky, its Cleveland-based parent company, claiming they were illegally harassed and three terminated for speaking out in favor of unionization and better working conditions. Flexjet, LLC employs over 350 pilots who operate luxury business jets for wealthy customers. The pilots are supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Airline Division, which represents over 85,000 workers in the aviation industry.

"Flexjet and OneSky terminated these hard-working pilots because they exercised their rights to encourage coworkers to support unionization," Airline Division International Representative Capt. Frederick C. Dubinsky said. "It is a blatant case of anti-union discrimination. The reasons management gave for firing these pilots are not only false, they're bizarre and should be of grave concern to pilots and their passengers."

All of the fired pilots had spotless employment records and had previously publicly identified themselves as union supporters.

According to the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Friday, senior managers told several pilots they were fired because they were "unhappy" and the carrier would not tolerate unhappy employees. When the pilots said they were not unhappy, they were stripped of their employee identification badges and told to resign in 24 hours or be terminated.

Another pro-union pilot was terminated for "insubordination" because he refused to speak about union issues on the telephone with OneSky Chairman Ken Ricci. Ricci had demanded that the terminated pilots debate him about unions in a public forum without any union representatives present.

In a series of letters, he repeatedly chastised the pilots for exercising their federal right to refrain from discussion unionization directly with him. This is not the first time Ricci has allegedly unlawfully fired union supporters in an effort to crush union activity.  In the early 2000s he fired a number of Travel Air pilot union organizers for equally questionable reasons and was similarly embroiled in a federal lawsuit, which the company settled out of court.

"Every worker should be able to trust that ownership and management will adhere to basic standards of fair play and consistency," said Airline Division Director Capt. David Bourne. "Flexjet and OneSky's decision to terminate these pilots for false and unlawful reasons introduces a level of uncertainty and arbitrariness into the workplace to which no one should be subjected."

Many Flexjet pilots are providing financial assistance to their terminated co-workers and their families.

The lawsuit claims the carrier and its parent company committed multiple violations of the Railway Labor Act, the federal law that governs labor relations in the airline and railroad industries, and Ohio state law. The pilots are seeking immediate reinstatement, back pay, attorneys' fees, a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting further interference with pilots' right to unionize, and other relief.

"The Flexjet pilots and the Teamsters are united like never before, and we aren't backing down. Our campaign for unionization has also become a fight to protect the operation from an ownership and management group that has lost its focus on stable operations," Capt. Bourne said.

UAL Negotiations Continue

The parties met in Fort Lauderdale during the week of April 20th as directed by the NMB.  Immediately prior to arriving in FLL, the IBT leadership was informed by the mediator that he had directed the Company to not present a proposal this week and that the agenda for the session would be:

  1. Complete the economic analysis of IBT March proposal

  2. Industry comparisons presented by each side

  3. TeamCare discussion

While the Committee was extremely disappointed with the last-minute directive the mediator gave to the Company, the Committee complied with the orders of the mediator rather than abandon the process. The Committee’s expectation was to fully utilize the week to anticipate and strategize for the Company’s expected next pass. It is the goal of this Committee, with the backing of the IBT, to achieve an industry-leading contract.

In meetings with the Company, Union economist Dan Akins gave a “State of the Industry” presentation, which included United’s our ranking in the industry based on the current union proposal in relation to their major competitors.  This corroborated and supported the current proposal as reasonable, in-line with the industry, and one that achieves the goal of providing an industry leading agreement.

At the close of this week’s discussions, Airline Division Director Bourne expressed to the Company and the Mediator that it is the Company’s turn to pass a comprehensive proposal and that it was the IBT’s expectation that a pass would occur in the next mediated session.

The parties are next scheduled to meet in Las Vegas May 10-14th.

Airline Industry News

Governmental and Regulatory

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Monday efforts to bolster risk-based security measures for airport and airline workers. The number of access points to secure areas will be reduced and tighter screening measures are being enacted. Workers will be subject to random checks during the workday and are not allowed to bypass Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints when traveling.

Airlines, Industry and Labor

Analysts predict 10 of the largest U.S. carriers will report record profits for the first quarter. Michael Linenberg, an analyst for Deutsche Bank, said his forecast of $2.8 billion "represents a record for the quarter and marks only the third profitable March quarter for the industry in a decade."

Global air cargo volume rose 11.7% in February on a year-over-year basis, according to a monthly report from the International Air Transport Association.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said the union would be willing to consider proposals to reform the U.S. air traffic control system, but only after funding for the Federal Aviation Administration has been approved

Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, reported earnings of $1.12 per share for the first quarter, a 75% increase from the same quarter last year. Alaska Air Group also reported $1.27 billion in revenue for the quarter.

Southwest Airlines reported a $453 million profit for the first quarter, or 66 cents per share. The carrier's quarterly profit exceeded analyst expectations of 64 cents per share. "We are thrilled to report an exceptionally strong first quarter 2015 earnings performance," said Gary Kelly, Southwest CEO.

American Airlines Group reported earnings of $932 million for the first quarter, exceeding analyst expectations. The carrier also declared a dividend of 10 cents for the quarter. CEO Doug Parker said American is on track to complete the integration process from its 2013 merger with US Airways.