By Ariel Graham | DFW Newsflash | March 2017
Flight attendants took to the streets to protest broken promises and unfair treatment in front of American Airlines’ Fort Worth headquarters on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
The protest commemorated the four year anniversary of the announcement of a merger between American Airlines and US Airways. Airline employees and advocates from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) marched up and down the front of American Airlines headquarters on a cold and rainy Valentine’s Day, carrying red and blue signs emblazoned with slogans like “Make It Right” and “Broken Promises,” the latter of which refers to a number of benefits and agreements offered to employees that, four years later, have yet to go into effect.
The merger, first announced on Feb. 14, 2013, was theoretically completed on Dec. 9 that same year, but according to APFA, the merger is far from complete.
“There were a lot of promises made at that time of a quick and speedy merger between the two,” said Bob Ross, APFA national president. “Four years and counting, and we are still not fully merged as one work group. We have a long ways to go still with IT problems, scheduling problems, and definitely pay issues as well. We’re out here to let the company know that it’s time they put their employees, as well as their passengers, first, and get on with this merger.”
Roger Holmin, former US Airways president for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), is currently a regional representative for APFA and was present during the initial merger negotiation conversations.
“I sat there for the 150 days of negotiations for this merger,” Holmin said. “I was there every single day working on a better tomorrow for our flight attendants. That’s not what has happened. It’s delay, delay, delay. It’s what we call a ‘creeping delay’ like on an airplane. The company continuously says they can’t do this because of an IT issue or they can’t do that. It’s always another IT issue. It’s always another excuse and quite frankly, we’re really tired of it.”
Technology and system integration problems seem to play a big part in many of the issues that have yet to be corrected in the merger. Ross explained that part of the problem comes from American Airlines’ need to integrate three different computer systems into their own system and failing to do so.
“[US Airways] has been working under two completely different computer systems than what American Airlines works under,” Holmin said. “Now they’re trying to take three different computer systems and move them into the American Airlines system. Until all of that is completely integrated, you can’t have what they call FOI, full operating integration. Until that happens, we’re not working as one.”
Fiona MacPhearson, an APFA regional representative and task force mobilizer, described many of the other issues employees face as a result of the merger.
“We were promised equal pay with United, or industry-leading pay with United Airlines,” MacPhearson said. “When they got their raise, it should have bumped us up to where they’re at, and we’re not. We’re below both Delta and United at this point.”
Additionally, American Airlines’ new uniforms have caused some negative physical reactions on some employees.
“As of this last Friday [Feb. 11], we had 2,751 reports of all kinds of various [reactions]. It could be neurological effects. Some people have rashes. I’ve heard of people getting retinal burns,” MacPhearson said. “There’s a lady walking the picket line right now who had a burn come up on her, and now she has a scar that won’t go away.”
MacPhearson added that these issues, much like the other issues, have been ignored and pushed to the back burner by American Airlines.
Ross and his team plan to conduct more protests and pickets across the nation. But he says he is willing to stop once American Airlines starts making good on their promises and treating their employees better.
“They need to realize that their employees have got to be first,” Ross said. “They have plans of building new headquarters and new operations areas, airports and repainting and fixing their airplanes, cosmetic [upgrades are] everywhere, except American is not taking care of their passengers and their employees. To not have a picket this time next year would mean that they finally queued us up with their interests, and that’s what most important to us.”