In September of 2010, Southwest Airlines announced it would purchased AirTran Holdings for $1.4 billion. This memo is to update teacher mechanics at AirTran, as well as mechanics at Southwest, about the effects of the merger on their employment and representation. As events unfold, we will continue to provide timely updates.
Q: What steps are needed to complete the merger?
A: Approval of the merger must go to federal regulators for their okay. It seems very likely that federal regulators will approve the merger, as there is little overlap of routes and direct competition between AirTran and Southwest. The best predictions at this time indicate that the merger will be approved quickly, and that the corporate phase will be completed in early 2011, with an operational merger to be completed sometime in 2012.
Q: How do the mechanics groups at Southwest and AirTran compare?
A: There are approximately 1900 employees in what is usually considered the mechanics and related craft and class, although AMFA has divided them into two groups—appearance techs and maintenance—under two different CBAs. There are approximately 400 AirTran employees in the mechanics craft. While under current NMB rules, AirTran mechanics do not constitute a large enough percentage of the combined craft or class to automatically trigger a runoff election between the Teamsters and AMFA. However, the Teamsters have received a great deal of interest from Southwest and AirTran mechanics and are involved in discussions with them. If you are interested in talking to a Teamster representative, please contact Scott Williams at (202) 437-4156.
Q: How will the AirTran and Southwest contracts be merged? How will the work groups be merged?
A: For the time being, and even after the formal, corporate aspect of the merger is completed, the three work groups (Southwest appearance techs, Southwest mechanics and AirTran mechanics and related) will remain separate. At some point in mid-to-late 2011, however, it is likely that the carriers’ operations will be merged to the point that one of the labor groups will file a request that the NMB conduct a “single carrier determination.” In response to that request, the NMB would investigate to determine whether AirTran and Southwest had merged their operations to the point that they were a single carrier for labor relations purposes. If the investigation reveals that they are a single carrier, the NMB would then allow a period of time for representatives to file to represent the entire combined craft or class. The NMB would then oversee an election between the Teamsters and AMFA and the winning organization would represent the entire combined craft or class.
After this process is complete, seniority integration would have to be conducted. In compliance with federal law, first negotiations would take place to see if an agreement between the workgroups could be made to integrate seniority; if not, an arbitration seeking “fair and equitable” seniority integration would take place.
At about the same time the seniority integration is being conducted, the surviving representative would also negotiate with the carrier to amalgamate the three agreements into an agreement(s) covering the entire combined workforce. While these negotiations are going on, the workgroups would continue to be covered by their separate agreements.
Q: Will the AirTran contract apply automatically to Southwest employees if the Teamsters are elected? Will the Southwest contract apply automatically to AirTran employees if AMFA is elected?
A: No. Regardless of who is elected the representative, employees continued to be covered by their respective pre-merger contracts until a new agreement(s) is made covering the entire craft. The Teamsters would seek to incorporate the best of both the AirTran and Southwest contracts in these negotiations.
Q: Will employees from the two carriers be able to transfer to stations operated by the other carrier?
A: There will be no transferring between the two carriers’ stations until there is an amalgamated agreement and combined seniority list. Even after integration, the Teamsters could impose restrictions on transfers and bumping to minimize disruption to our members.