Dear Brothers and Sisters,
During my years in the U.S. military, I learned valuable lessons that have stayed with me ever since. Never box yourself into a corner, always keep your options open, and be sure to have a long-range battle plan.
That’s exactly the strategy our union has followed as we face, together, one of the toughest battles of our professional lives: The bankruptcy crisis at AMR, the parent company of American Airlines.
Since the beginning, the TWU has pursued multiple approaches to defend our jobs, our wages, our pensions and our health care. Our members and their families deserve nothing less.
Our multi-part strategy includes:
- Working closely with unions representing pilots and flight attendants at American;
- Educating politicians in cities where our jobs and families are at great risk;
- Assembling a “dream team” of economists and lawyers as our key advisors;
- Staging visible public campaigns, such as our "Save Americans Jobs" effort that has won support from thousands of citizens.
Our strategy now also includes the supporting of a possible merger with US Airways, if certain conditions can be met. The possibility of a merger was announced today, with support from TWU, the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).
We don’t know, at this time, whether a merger will actually take place. So we are also preparing for the possibility of a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where AMR executives will attempt to reject our labor contracts. Bankruptcy courts are not friendly to working people. They are designed to protect the financial interests of the companies involved, not the real human beings who work for these companies.
It’s not a television show like Judge Judy, where the judge can bang her gavel and insist on “justice”. There is a difference between what is legal and what is just, and bankruptcy laws are routinely used to achieve outcomes that are not only unjust but not justifiable.
While we don’t agree with how the bankruptcy code is currently structured, we’ve made it our business to understand how it works. We are ready for an aggressive courtroom battle.
At the same time, because we understand the risks of the bankruptcy process, we have spent weeks upon weeks trying to arrive at a consensual agreement that would keep us out of court. Your TWU bargaining teams have worked tirelessly to chip at AMR’s concessionary demands, trying to get the company to back off on key issues.
As I write this letter, we are close to hammering out changes which will result in a “last, best offer” from AMR that is significantly different from the company’s original demands. As I have stated before, you will have the opportunity to vote on this last offer (or tentative agreement if it reaches that level). This decision is vitally important to each of you and your families, and you deserve an opportunity to take it seriously and make it personally.
We also do not want to close off any alternative that might create opportunity for TWU members. In the wild world of Wall Street and bankruptcy court, two things are certain: Workers and their families get unfairly hurt and savvy players must keep every option open. That’s where the possibility of a merger with US Airways comes into play.
US Airways management has approached TWU, as well as pilots and flight attendants, to discuss the changes they would seek in our labor contracts if they were able to merge and acquire American Airlines. The company is currently profitable and could elevate American to a top-tier carrier. If a merger were to take place it could help turn around our airline, give us new management and a path towards a more positive future, something that has long been missing in our work lives.
That’s why the TWU, along with APA and APFA, announced today that we are prepared to support a possible merger of American Airlines with US Airways on two conditions.
- First, if US Airways’ restructuring plan for labor concessions is clearly less drastic than what AMR has demanded.
- Second, if the U.S. Bankruptcy Court allows US Airways to enter the bankruptcy process and propose a formal plan designed to take AMR out of bankruptcy and make American a great airline again.
How this plays out remains to be seen.
Nothing is certain in bankruptcy. We will continue on all fronts, because our bargaining teams will not rest until we have explored every possible option to protect our members and our families.
- We will fight in the unfriendly halls of U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
- We will bring out, for your vote, a last, best offer or tentative agreement that reflects our efforts to avoid termination of our labor contracts by the court.
- We will continue to support a possible US Airways merger, if it can be done with employee support from the beginning.
In this critical situation, it’s clear that the decision by our union to pursue multiple options is the best strategy for our membership.
I will continue to keep you posted all along the way.
James C. Little
International President, TWU