AMFA will soon be starting the process of collecting contract proposal ideas from the AMFA represented Sun Country Airlines (SCA) employees in July. AMFA plans to serve a Section 6 notice to commence collective bargaining negotiations in late July and set dates to meet in the late summer/fall of 2022. For those of you involved in your first negotiations or for those who need a refresher please refer to the following synopsis.
The process of negotiations with management is governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA, passed in 1926, was originally legislated to allow railroad union workers to resolve disputes with management while minimizing the potential for interstate commerce disruptions. The airline industry was folded into the RLA under Title II in 1936. Historically, negotiation procedures fell under section 6 of the RLA but currently several sections of the RLA apply to contract negotiations in the airline industry.
The timeline for each step varies and at any point during these steps (direct negotiations, mediation or arbitration) a Tentative Agreement (TA) may be reached. When a TA is reached, ballots are sent to each member in good standing for ratification. You can ensure eligibility to vote as a member in good standing by keeping your dues current. If approved by a majority vote, the agreement is “ratified” and thereafter goes into effect. If the membership rejects the TA, then the process basically repeats itself with minor differences.
STEP 1: INTENT TO CHANGE – July 2022
Either the union or management must notify the other of their intent to negotiate an agreement if no agreement exists or modify an existing agreement. They must agree to a meeting date within 10 days of the notification and must meet within 30 days of the original notification, unless both parties mutually agree to another date.
STEP 2: COLLECTIVE BARGAINING – Fall 2022
Per the AMFA Constitution, your Negotiating Committee is comprised of:
||Anthony Christner, Interim SCA Airline Representative
||Earl Clark, Region I Director and Will Abbott, Region II Director
The Committee will be using proposals submitted and prioritized by you to help guide their objectives and priorities while drafting the openers. Future surveys may be conducted as the negotiation process progresses.
Once the Negotiating Committee exchanges an initial contract proposal with SCA management, we will begin direct bargaining on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). It is AMFA’s expectation that the parties will negotiate on average one session each month, but this is always subject to change due to schedules. The sessions will typically increase in frequency when the parties get closer to achieving a comprehensive TA. AMFA expects most of the bargaining sessions will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Once the Committee and management reach agreement on an individual Article of the CBA , the Article is considered tentatively agreed to and held aside until a comprehensive TA is reached and ready for your vote. Progress during this step, or lack thereof, determines whether it will be necessary to proceed with the other steps of the RLA.
STEP 3 - CONTRACT BECOMES AMENDABLE
Under the RLA contracts never expire, they simply continue as the “status quo” until amended. Management may not change the contract and AMFA may not engage in any self-help (i.e, strike, job action) until all the steps outlined in the RLA have been completed and both parties are released by the NMB.
STEP 4 - MEDIATION OPTIONS
Either AMFA or management, if bargaining is not proceeding productively, may choose to request the mediation services of the National Mediation Board (NMB). Even if neither party solicits mediation, the NMB still may intercede and force both parties into mediation. This often happens when the talks are deadlocked or broken off.
STEP 5 - MANDATORY MEDIATION
If either party requests mediation or the NMB intercedes, both parties must enter into the mediation process and a mediator is assigned by the NMB to oversee negotiations. The mediator decides if negotiations are deadlocked and if either or both parties can proceed with other legal steps.
STEP 6 - BINDING ARBITRATION
Binding arbitration may be proposed by the NMB if mediation proves unsuccessful. Binding arbitration requires both the union and management to agree to it. They must also agree upon a neutral arbitrator. The NMB will offer to submit the remaining issues to binding arbitration. The arbitrator makes a decision that is final and binding to both parties. Unions frequently object to binding arbitration.
STEP 7 - COOLING OFF PERIOD
If either AMFA or management refuse the NMB’s offer of binding arbitration, both parties must observe a 30 day “cooling off” period. If the President of the United States does not intervene in steps 8-11, then the whole process moves directly to step 12 âÂÂ€ÂÂ‘ Self Help. It should be noted that due to the potential for Presidential involvement, it is beneficial to the union if the sitting President is supportive of the right of workers to engage in labor actions.
STEP 8 - PRESIDENTIAL INTERVENTION
The NMB may at this time request the President of the United States to intervene due to the “possible substantial interference with interstate commerce.” The President however is not legally mandated to intervene.
STEP 9 - FACT FINDING BOARD
The President may, at her or his discretion, establish an Emergency Fact Finding Board to investigate the dispute between the union and management and make recommendations.
If the board is appointed, they must make their recommendations within 30 days. The board may, however, ask either party for additional time to investigate. The President may also allow an additional 30-day extension for the board to complete its investigation.
After the Emergency Fact Finding Board makes its recommendations to the President, AMFA and management must observe another 30 day cooling off period. Intensified mediation talks, or “super-mediation,” may continue in an effort to reach an agreement prior to the expiration of the 30 days. The board’s recommendation sometimes provides a face-saving means for the parties to reach an agreement.
At the end of the 30-day cooling off period, AMFA and management are free of legal requirements to negotiate and the “status quo” of the contract has been rescinded. Management has the option of imposing its own work rules and wages. AMFA has the option of accepting those rules and wages or may elect to take work actions in the form of intermittent strikes, full walk out strikes or other actions AMFA feels will help resolve the deadlock. Once a TA is agreed to by the Negotiation Committee, the TA is again passed on to the membership for a ratification vote.
We hope this helps you to better understand the collective bargaining process under the Railway Labor Act.
Your AMFA – Sun Country Airlines Negotiating Committee