Yesterday, I wrote about a decision by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) to decline to pursue a new involuntary furlough mitigation program (IVFMP) ahead of looming job cuts in April. Many flight attendants and the AFA took issue with how I characterized the process.
AFA Defends Conduct, Disputes “Secret Vote” Characterization
I framed the issue as a secret vote and noted that junior and senior flight attendants were at odds over how the AFA should proceed concerning a new IVFMP (for more background on IVFMP, please check here).
A spokesperson from the AFA reached out to me shortly after the story was published asking for a correction and provided the following statement:
This was not a vote, nor was it secret. The assertion that this was a junior/senior split in the survey process is incorrect. There is no evidence of that whatsoever. This was a member survey conducted alongside local councils member meetings over the last month as a means to collect feedback from Flight Attendants about how to address the potential, upcoming furlough.
Section 18 of the United contract contains furlough mitigation programs that were first of their kind in the industry. These include voluntary furloughs that maintain healthcare, seniority, and return to base rights in addition to partnership flying. Additionally, the union continues to encourage voluntary options for Flight Attendants to mitigate the extraordinary impact of this pandemic. United is now offering another early out program that will help reduce any overages in addition to standard attrition.
We will continue to do everything in our power to protect our members’ jobs and healthcare including extending the Payroll Support Program that has been effective at doing so.
Was It A Vote Or Not?
Today, I give you both sides. You can decide. The AFA is adamant that this was not a vote but simply a member survey. Many flight attendants have echoed that assessment.
The reason for my headline yesterday was not simply to grab attention, but because I consider the matter like this:
If I’m a member of your organization and you send me a survey that has an access code that is unique to me AND you ask if I am for or against something, guess what… that is a vote. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
— Flight Attendant X ✈️ (@flghtattendantx) February 4, 2021
I am not saying it is unreasonable to disagree. Furthermore, I give the AFA credit for doing what it believes is best in order to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of flight attendants. It is not inherently unreasonable to refuse to compromise in certain areas or create a condition for a “second class” within the flight attendant ranks, as British Airways has done (and struggled greatly with).
This is a travel blog and my biases shine through. As I noted yesterday, I recognize that the seniority system is in place and that there may not be a better system in a large organization in which workers perform similar tasks. Nevertheless, coronavirus has upended the status quo and it may be time to re-think some long-held assumptions. The divisions between junior and senior are quite clear to me based upon the 300+ comments in this story.
Let me say this: I did not appreciate the threats yesterday directed from self-identified flight attendants warning me not to eat on my future flights. This issue should not be about me, but Live and Let’s Fly has over 4,000 articles over the last decade about United Airlines, most of them positive. As my primary carrier, I do write about United a lot. And I love to recognize the beauty and grace of the vast majority of flight attendants.
Over and over though the years I have expressed thanksgiving for the amazing, warm, caring service I have received on United flight attendants young and old, big and small, senior and junior.
Finally, I realize this is a horrible time for everyone. I understand that there are no easy solutions and someone is bound to be disappointed when difficult decisions are made. I also understand that flight attendants have a new burden of mask enforcement which has made an often-thankless job even more difficult.
Well, thank you flights attendants for your service. Thank you for taking care of me for over 1.5 million miles on United over the last 15 years.
My heart aches for the so-called “junior” flight attendants who have particularly faced such uncertainty during the pandemic. I will continue to hold the AFA accountable. Let us share in our hope that this virus will soon pass and there are clearer skies ahead…