There are thousands of mundane steps to merge two airlines the size of American Airlines and US Airways. While that process is well underway, we’re still well over a year away from completion and probably close to a year before more substantial customer-facing pieces are in place.
In the interim, the process of merging the two workforces is moving along mostly as expected. Because there are many unions involved, each group is handled a bit differently. And, since each airline had their own union for a specific class of employees (and sometimes more than one), there’s generally an integration process for the unions.
The responsibility for that integration process is not something specifically borne by the airlines, but rather by the unions themselves (generally with support from the airlines). One of the early steps in the process is to petition the National Mediation Board that the two airlines are acting substantially as one. And, while we’re still a long way from that being done, the NMB has generally agreed with previous mergers that we’re far enough along in this one to certify American and US Airways are operating as one so the unions can begin integrating.
There’s contracts to be negotiated and seniority lists to be determined. These are real life, very important issues that affect each of the employees on things like seniority, pay and work rules, major factors of their job. These integration processes are mostly routine, and have largely followed that route so far in this latest merger.
The flight attendants have already gone through this process, along with mechanics, ground workers, and passenger service agents (even though the passenger service agents voted down a union a few years ago). Unsurprisingly, the pilots process isn’t quite as smooth.
As with the other groups, the NMB certified American Airlines and US Airways as one for the purposes of moving forward on pilots union integration. But, harkening back to a battle roughly 7-years old at this point, a subset of the US Airways pilot believe the process isn’t fair and wants another shot in court to settle things.
Since the last time I wrote about this in March, there has been progress in almost all other areas of the workforce. The recent NMB decision is a good step forward, but I still suspect this may end up back in front of the courts in some form or fashion. The NMB will likely rule soon as to whether the APA will represent all pilots going forward. If it does, one would think this battle might finally be over.
Even though the pilots are all getting substantial raises as part of the agreements struck to win approval of a merger, seniority remains a very passionate issue for many pilots dating back to the original US Airways-America West integration.
The union leadership is essentially paid to keep fighting this battle, barring some majority decision from it’s members to let sleeping dogs lie. And, I don’t mean to make light of these issues when I say this, but if this issue does ultimately get resolved or even continue to be disputed after 7 years, the question remains for each individual pilot.
If you’ve been unhappy with your working conditions for 7 years, how long do you keep fighting in a job your unhappy with?