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Airline Division Business Agents Meet to Burnish Skills, Share Best Practices

Last week, business agents representing mechanics, pilots, customer service representatives and  other occupations met at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a three-day training. During the training, a number of important topics were discussed.

Deirdre Hamilton from the IBT Legal Department took the lead on organizing the three-day seminar.

“This arose out of numerous discussions about the specialized nature of representing workers in airline industry; we wanted to put together program that 100 percent spoke to those issues,” Hamilton said. “One of the trainings that I particularly enjoyed was our discussion on organizing under the RLA. There are a number of circumstances where it isn’t immediately clear whether the RLA or the NLRA applies to a bargaining unit, and we discussed the steps that need to be taken to determine that. We want everyone to know that no matter what law the workers are covered under, the IBT is very happy to organize all the workers we can and want everyone to make sure they have tools and resources to do just that.”

“It seemed to make sense to get all of this knowledge together in one place,” said Nick Manicone, another one of the union’s  attorneys for the Airline Division. “Whether it be bargaining, contract enforcement, issues we’re having at particular sectors or carriers; I think there’s a lot that can be learned from one another in regards to what’s going on at our different properties.”

There were a number of sessions covering the legal processes a business agent is expected to encounter. They included: the Grievance Process, led by International Representative Chris Moore and Southern Region Representative Iliana Flores; the System Board of Adjustment, led by Deirdre Hamilton and International Representatives Bob Fisher and Paul Alves; Arbitration, led by Nick Manicone and IBT Attorney Matt Harris; and Mergers and Seniority Integration, led by Deirdre Hamilton and International Representative Rick Dubinsky.

In addition to these sessions with everyone from the division present, the business agents also participated specialty break-out sessions to discuss topics that are specific to representing pilots, technicians, and customer service representatives. These sessions were led by National Coordinator for Customer Service and Flight Attendants Kim Barboro, National Coordinator for Mechanics and Related Vinny Graziano, and International Representatives Scott Hegland, Chris Moore and Rick Dubinsky. An overview of the Railway Labor Act (RLA) was also covered, as well as how to organize and bargain under the law. These sessions were led by the IBT Legal Department, Chris Moore, Deputy Organizing Director Kim Keller, and Kyle Schoembs from the IBT’s Economics and Contracts Department. Business Agents viewed presentations by the departments of Communications, Training and Development, Strategic Research and Campaigns and Affiliate Bookkeeping Systems regarding the various resources the International Union has to offer to locals across the country.

At one point, General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall addressed the class and spoke with them about the importance the work Business Agents do. General President James P. Hoffa and Airline Division Director Captain David Bourne also met with the attendees afterwards to thank them for everything they do for the union.

“It's great to have leadership from all of our represented crafts – pilots, technicians, customer service representatives, and all other related positions – together for this event,” Bourne said. “Trainings like this allows us to share our experiences and help us to better represent our members. I want to thank all of the business agents for their hard work, which continues to make the Teamsters Airline Division the best possible representation for workers in the airline industry.”

During the session on the grievance process, Moore and Flores led a discussion with the group on everything that happens from the time a grievance is filed until it’s settled. Flores asked the classroom at what point it was necessary to bring a business agent into the grievance process. Teamsters Local 986 Business Agent Clacy Griswold noted that there were two important considerations to take into account when deciding to get involved in a grievance: what the contract states, and what practices you have in place as a local.

“All of the contracts are different, so there is often different language for when and to what capacity the business agent is involved in the grievance with the company,” Griswold said. “There is language in the United Airlines contract that is specific as to when a business agent gets involved in a grievance. The other piece to it is that as a local, representing different groups, there’s different ways of doing it that you set up yourselves. When you’ve got a bargaining unit of 3,000 people, the business agent can’t be involved in every single grievance from the outset, but in smaller groups, you should get involved as soon as possible.”

Teamsters Local 284 President Mark Vandak serves as a business agent for workers at NetJets, where they ratified a new six-year collective bargaining agreement last month.

“I think the best thing that’s coming out of this is we’re all learning each other’s best practices,” Vandak said. “Walking through these processes, making sure your stewards know everything they need to know, it’s really important, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to do this training. I’ve learned a lot.”

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