2023 Year in Review
January 13, 2024
To the Local 591 Membership:
As we begin 2024, on behalf of the Local 591 Executive Board, I hope you and your loved ones had a Joyous Holiday Season, and a Happy New Year!
First, I realize this letter is rather long; however, I believe it is important to take a look back at the events of 2023 and some significant achievements we had and hope you take the time to read it in its entirety. Through this letter I’ll also give you a preview into the 2024 negotiations with American, along with hopefully the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act which will start to level the playing field for aircraft maintenance performed outside of our country. For ease of reading, I will be breaking parts of this letter into key sections.
I know the upcoming negotiations is on everyone minds, and how our once best in the industry wages when the JCBAs were signed are now closer to the bottom of the industry.
With that said, for a little over a month now, we have asked the Local 591 Membership to send their contract concerns by way of contract proposals/suggestions for a new contract. To date, a rather large number of suggestions have been submitted by all of our Local’s workgroups, and also quite a few sent from and on behalf of IAM Members. We have heard clearly from you about the disparity of wages between American Airlines and other airlines in all the represented work groups, along with the effect inflation has had with our annual raises not keeping pace with the cost of the goods we buy. It goes without saying that wages will be a major focus of negotiations. We have also heard a lot of suggestions on the current scope clause that has bled us of over 600 AMT, and 200 GSE/Facilities mechanic jobs since the JCBA was ratified, with much of those AMT jobs likely going to vendors like the MRO in El Salvador that currently has 17 aircraft being overhauled there. I can also say it has been loudly stated, to put it mildly, that the two-tiers of medical benefits creates an unacceptable disparity amongst union members on the same seniority lists and needs to be addressed. Finally, a rather large number of suggestions dealt with the negotiations process itself, with an expectation of negotiations that will be separate from Fleet Service, and no interference from either International Union via an executive committee.
The message we have received from the TWU International on the later subject is clear guidance that Mechanic and Related (M&R), Maintenance Training Specialists (MTS), Maintenance Control Technicians (MCT), and Material Logistics Specialists (MLS), will be negotiating fully separately from Fleet Service, and that our seven TWU Negotiators are the decision makers for our upcoming negotiations. The TWU International has also committed that there shall be no Executive Committee negotiations. Separate negotiations are actually mandated under the TWU Negotiations Policy, and also under the three (3) Association Constitutions. We will do everything to comply with the Memberships demands and ensure that words both spoken and written regarding separate negotiations are adhered to. That said, I do know that many, myself included, are still wary of whether this will ultimately be the case. The one thing I can assure you, as your Local President, is that you will be made aware if something changes. Also, and to be clear, separate negotiations does not absolve us of our obligations as Unionists to honor the picket lines of the Flight Attendants, Fleet Service, Agents, Pilots, or any other Union workgroup. Article 38 of your current contract protects your right to not cross a legal strike line, too. Plain and simple, Unionists just do not cross picket lines, and that expectation is on other workgroups not to cross ours if we need to strike.
Putting the negotiating process aside, and getting back to the survey, we do want to hear from every Member. Your ideas are important to us, so please take a few minutes and fill out the survey to let us know what changes you would like to see in your contract. Here is the link to the Contract Negotiations Surveys.
For starters I do want to thank all of your Executive Board, Chairpersons, and Stewards for the hard work they do for our Local. Without the dedication and hard work that they do each and every day, we would not be able to deliver the high level of representation that Local 591 provides. With that said, our Local believes there is always room for improvement when we represent the Members, and in 2023 we provided advanced representation classes to all Chairpersons and Stewards. The training was an intense two full days of classes which covered all aspects of representation in a more advanced way and built upon the basic training already provided in years past. These high-level training classes that are overseen by Vice President Pete Caruso, are built, and taught by your Local Executive Board and Coordinators, and the feedback from those who attended has been very good.
Your representatives, in 2023 have filed nearly 1,800 grievances. That doesn’t include the thousands of issues that they resolved without filing a grievance, or the presidential grievances that were also filed on your behalf. Inside all of the grievances filed, we have seen a success rate of over 50% being remedied within the station, and without need of advancement to the Grievance Review Board (GRB). Your Local did have some rather large victories this past year. One by leading the way to stop the company from their attempt at imposing Surgery Plus as the required medical provider for back and joint surgeries. We led the way by filing the presidential grievance and gathering support from the APA, with the help of our TWU International Representative Rollie Reaves, and getting the conversation going that ultimately led to the company backing down across the entire company. We also have had success in finally resolving some limited duty issues that should lead to more work opportunities for those Members who are not at full-duty and allowing them to remain on payroll. Other Presidential grievances filed last year included the use of Overhaul employees to accomplish Line work on field trips this past summer. This was a clear-cut violation of the agreement, and we have requested the Association file for arbitration. The most recent Presidential grievance I filed was for the company not accounting for all the scheduled Line work at DWH in their DWH outsourcing report. Under the JCBA, DWH is allowed 25,000 hours of scheduled line work. The company, knowing that DWH had clearly exceeded this level, decided to restate the hours reported by removing the Intermediate Maintenance Line(IML) scheduled work from the Line Maintenance calculation in the report. This instance, like the field trips grievance, of Overhaul Mechanics doing Line work needs to be arbitrated promptly. I say this for three reasons: First is these are egregious violations of the contract based on the well-established difference between Line work and Overhaul work. The second is because the utilization of Overhaul Mechanics to do Line work lessens the amount of work available to Line mechanics and costs us station staffing positions and/or overtime needed at Line stations. The third reason should be clear to all of us, and that is there is plenty of actual Overhaul work available for our Overhaul Brothers and Sisters to accomplish. Work that the company has chosen to have performed in El Salvador by vendors while our Brothers and Sisters accomplish our Line work. I know I speak for most when I say that I prefer our aircraft being overhauled by the professional AA Overhaul Mechanics at our bases.
Our preference with grievances filed is to get them resolved at the lowest level because we know once a grievance leaves the GRB, that as a Local, we lose control of when the grievance will be heard at an arbitration. This is because unresolved grievances that exit the GRB and need to be arbitrated now belong to the Association. The Association, upon both Unions agreeing to arbitrate, will then get with the company to set up dates for the case to be heard. As a Local we consistently want to be aggressive and get your cases heard because we believe that if the threat of an arbitrator deciding and enforcing the language is not always looming a month away, like our old contract did, then it weakens the contract. I know a lot of the long-time TWU Members, like myself, are baffled by the fact that we don’t have the say we should have for a Local our size—or Local 514 for that matter, but it is true that the Association controls the System Board. It is also true that there are not steady arbitration dates or the ability for the Local to schedule arbitration for a contractual case. We have several important cases where the request from this Local to the Association for arbitration dates is now more than two years old. The JCBA language for the System Board has set us back and needs to be a priority for change in the upcoming negotiation talks.
With regard to the Association, there were some settlements and arbitration decisions in 2023. In February the holiday pay while on Military Leave, unpaid FMLA, and OJI, was arbitrated. The arbitrator’s decision was made in June, and it was a solid win. Those on any of those specific leaves are now paid the eight (8) hours of holiday pay at each holiday. There was a settlement reached on Aircraft Movement prior to the scheduled arbitration. A settlement was also reached on the M&R JCBA Article 6-K, immediately return to service case. This after several mediation sessions and having an arbitrator ready to hear the case. The Association also received an arbitrator’s decision on the Attendance Policy that was imposed upon us by the company. This decision was definitely not a popular one at our Local, as we believe, and experience has taught us, that the issuance of points is potential discipline, and nobody should receive even potential discipline for the bona fide use of their earned sick time, like when you present a doctor’s note after calling out sick. Unfortunately, the arbitrator did not view the points as discipline and referred to this points-based attendance policy as similar to the “Seymour” policy that previously existed at US Airways. As a Local, we find this policy as inferior to the negotiated policy we had under our old TWU agreement, and the number of terminations in 2023 for attendance infractions alone has proved that to be true. This will be another point of emphasis in negotiations to give our Members a more just attendance policy, and the number of proposals submitted on the sick policy has been tremendous.
Finally, a big part of representation is Membership meetings, and more importantly attending Membership meetings. As a Local, during the year we have Membership Meetings every calendar quarter in each of our five regions, with no less than three meetings each. The one part of the quarterly meetings that continues to grow is the virtual attendance via Zoom. Even though we have moved past the pandemic, we have continued to stream our quarterly meetings live on zoom for all Local 591 Members to attend when they are unable to attend in person. Just register ahead of the start of the meeting which you want to attend virtually, and you will receive an access code. Also, when time allowed in 2023, we were able to do some station visits in conjunction with the quarterly meetings.
A common question the Local hears all the time is what is going on with the Association, or the more direct question of revamping or ending the Association. To start with the ending the Association, and the calls to just vote it out; we continue to ask those questions of our leadership. This past year I was able to speak directly with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler on the shortcomings of an Association built on two fundamentally different Unions, process, and administration wise. That being the TWU a more Local governed organization, the IAM being more International and/or District governed. This is something we continue to deal with and often leads to processes like the simple act of requesting arbitration to hit roadblocks. To date, the discussions with President Shuler have not yielded any fruit, nor have the numerous conversations we have had, and ideas presented, within the TWU.
Another effort in 2023 that I continually get asked about was the joint efforts to address the demand of our Membership to revamp the Association negotiation structure and processes. For those who are not aware, we started 2023 with an attempt to amend the Association Constitution with regard to the negotiation policy in order to correct the flaws that our Executive Board, along with Local 514 and 567’s Executive Boards, saw as wrong in the last negotiations. In addition to numerous issues we found wrong, the two major wrongs we attempted to right, utilizing the published Association Constitution amendment process, were the use of an Executive Committee, which locked out your Locally elected officials from negotiating, and the disproportionateness of a committee being balanced 50/50 when the Membership size is three to one in favor of the TWU. The TWU JCBA Negotiating Committee wrote and presented an 8-page negotiation policy to our TWU Leadership based on lessons learned from the JCBA negotiations, in order to insure the best possible outcome with the next and all future negotiations. Despite being endorsed by all TWU Local Presidents who participated, and meeting with TWU leadership several times, having meaningful conversations, we have not received any official, or unofficial for that matter, response on the Constitution Amendment from leadership.
Putting the lack of movement on the Association Amendment aside, and as mentioned above, we will be negotiating separately from Fleet Service and have already established our M&R/MTS/MCT/MLS Negotiation Committee for the upcoming talks. I do believe that if the IAM allows their seven-person committee to make decisions like we at the TWU have been instructed, and empowers their Local Representatives, we will be successful in negotiations.
Legislative and Political Involvement
During 2023 your Local, with the help of TWU International and their Government Affairs office, was very active in speaking with the elected officials in trying to get a few Bills passed in Congress. One piece of legislation that we were heavily involved in pushing for passage by both political parties was the Global Aircraft Maintenance Safety Improvement Act. This Bill, that will start to level the playing field between aircraft maintenance performed at foreign and domestic aircraft maintenance facilities, had a lot of input from Local 591. The language of the Bill is now incorporated in the text of the current FAA Reauthorization Bill, which already passed the House with tremendous bipartisan support but is waiting on the Senate to vote on the Bill. Upping the standards and having a level playing field is the right thing to do. The goal is to return to the United States some of the jobs that were previously offshored because the government effectively incentivized offshoring by allowing airlines to utilize maintenance facilities which were almost unregulated. It is not often that it can be said that it has been enjoyable working to get a Bill passed in Washington D.C.; however, the commonality on the urgency to do something which leads to overwhelming bipartisan support was quite refreshing compared to the political bickering we see on television. It is widely expected for the Bill to finally pass during the first few months of 2024.
To put a misnomer that we often hear to bed, as a Local we have never given a penny of your dues money to either political party or any candidate for that matter. When we speak of Local lobbying efforts, we are talking about sitting down with Members of Congress and speaking to the issues and asking for their support. Our Local’s issues that we lobby on are common sense issues that improve the safety and security of air travel, along with helping protect good American jobs.
As a Local we are also looking to the future with the new technology that is quickly approaching reality with the FAA’s Advanced Air Mobility. As the FAA says, “the overall Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) concept aimed at developing an air transportation system that moves people and cargo between local, regional, intraregional, and urban locations not previously served or underserved by aviation using innovative aircraft, technologies, infrastructure, and operations.” With American, like most airlines, already investing in these companies, we have to make sure we secure that work contractually, and also make sure the FAA keeps the same licensing requirements as those at the airlines. Our efforts continue this year to stay ahead of the technological advances that have job-killing implications.
This past year we also participated in an NTSB Summit on Runway Incursions, where your Administrative Executive Board Member Russ Dittmer delivered to NTSB Chairwomen Homendy and the industry experts our Local vision for preventing highly dangerous runway incursions. Included in our vision is the requirement of an airmen certificate in order to move aircraft on taxiways and runways at controlled airports.
This year, AMT Executive Board Member Mark Erler will be representing our Local at the Aerospace Supply Chair Resiliency Task Force. This Department of Transportation taskforce was established to “identify and assess risks to the United States aerospace supply chains,” and will report to Congress with their findings.
I often refer to our Local 591 Committee Members as our unsung heroes, as they are usually the first person we call when any of us has a specific issue that is outside the confines of the JCBA. If you think about it for a moment, if you have a safety related issue, you’re calling the Safety Committee. If you have a compliance issue, you’re calling our ASAP Coordinators. And if you have a benefits question, or if you or a family member are dealing with a personal issue, you call our EAP/Benefits Coordinators and Peer Coordinators.
I am grateful again this year, as I am each year, for these Member professionals who dedicate their time to help the Membership of our Local (as well as their family members and sometimes their friends) with a staggering number of serious issues unrelated to the contract. For example, there were nearly 300 serious safety issues reported throughout Local 591, and all but 75 were addressed by Safety Committee in 2023. This of course doesn’t include the dozens of daily phone calls on issues that were fixed without needing a formal report. Our two ASAP Coordinators handled over 500 Local 591 ASAP Reports, of which 98% were accepted into ASAP. That means without our ASAP program, there was a distinct possibility of discipline or license action being issued in the other accepted cases. I do like to remind our Members that not all ASAP programs are created equal. The former US Airways IAM ASAP program was a program that was not non-punitive, compared to our long-established TWU non-punitive program. Finally, every day, there are dozens upon dozens of benefits related questions being answered by our EAP/Benefits folks simply because American has apparently decimated their benefits department. These benefit questions, which really should be handled by American, are in addition to the numerous real-life EAP type scenarios that they deal with each day.
A big goal of our Local is to provide continual education for all of our representatives and committee members. This past year, our Safety Committee attended the National Safety Council, where they received extensive training and are an active participate in the labor division that helps push OSHA in policymaking. Our ASAP Coordinators also receive continual training and participate at the biannual Aviation Info-share Conference hosted by the FAA. This should not come as a surprise for those who have participated in our ASAP Program that the TWU ASAP Program is continually recognized as an industry leader at Info-Share. Our EAP/Benefits team receives annual training at the Labor Assistance Professionals Conference, along with regularly scheduled training with trained professionals. This also should not come as a surprise that our EAP Program was recognized on a worldwide stage for its outstanding peer support of the Local 591 membership at the International Pilot Peer Assist Coalition (IPPAC) Conference. As a result of Local 591’s participation, IPPAC is now expanding beyond a pilot peer coalition to include mechanics and air traffic control. It has been renamed the International Peer Assist Aviation Coalition (IPAAC). Local 591’s EAP Coordinators also helped with the preparation for the TWU International to attend the NTSB “Navigating Mental Health in Aviation” Summit. Finally, our EAP team is taking the lead on the long overdue Professional Standards Program. A great amount of thanks to the Allied Pilots Association (APA) for conducting training on professional standards. Local 591 has been trying to roll out Professional Standards program for some time, and your EAP professionals have stepped up and written a draft manual based on the APA training and the APA manual. We expect to formally roll out the program early in 2024.
Additionally, as a Local we participate in the TWU International Working Women’s Committee (WWC), where we promote women in the workplace. Our Veteran’s Committee is always there for the Veterans in our Local, and also volunteering at Veteran events around the country. We also continue to participate in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. event that the TWU International Human Rights Committee hosts with several Members attending.
A big part of what we do as a Local is tied to the dues we collect from the membership. With those dues monies comes a great responsibility to ensure that every dollar is spent prudently. That is why we never lose sight that we operate our Local with your money, and we must operate with the utmost fiduciary responsibility. We continue to take advantage of the higher interest rates by moving portions of the Local’s treasury between Certificate of Deposit (CD’s) accounts, while still maintaining FDIC insurance on the monies. Our goal is to maximize returns, but making sure the money is also secured at all times.
That said, we also believe in giving back to the Membership, and because of our fiscal prudence in 2023 we once again spent a significant amount of money on Member events and other Member benefits. We started 2023 by passing out black hats to all Members, and a Veterans hat to our Members who are Veterans. In February, those who attended the quarterly membership meetings in person, or via Zoom, received a flashlight from our EAP/Benefit Coordinators for listening to their presentation. In March, the Local provided pens to all Members to celebrate Local 591’s Tenth Anniversary. In early May, the Southwest Region hosted our annual picnic with a record attendance—including record out-of-town attendance. In July we started to hand out short sleeve gray athletic shirts that we received very good feedback on. In September we kept an annual tradition going by feeding the entire Membership on the day put aside for us, Labor Day. The West Region ended the month of September by hosting an LA Dodgers baseball game event that was well attended by Members from many stations. October brought another round of athletic shirts, this time long sleeve black shirt in time for winter. That was followed in November by a new, and second Veterans hat in time for Veterans Day. The end of November brought about the annual pocket calendars, and in December the Southeast Region hosted the annual Holiday Party in Miami that also saw a record turnout, that included numerous out-of-town Members. For 2024, we are already working on a special gift for the Membership that will be distributed in the Spring.
In 2023, as an Executive Board, we made the unanimous decision to purchase a larger more modern headquarters, training center, and DFW membership meeting building in Grapevine Texas. The building is less than five minutes from the DFW hangars and removes the need for rental space to conduct training and membership meetings. If you are from, or find yourself in the DFW area, please stop by and see the building. Also, with the lease expiring on our Miami space, we were able to also move to a larger space in Miami with minimal additional cost.
During 2023 we welcomed 197 AMT’s, 77 MLS, and 7 GSE and Facilities Maintenance Mechanics into our Local. Most of the headcount increases were to offset the positions lost to attrition. In fact, since the ratification of the JCBA in March 2020 which was followed by the pandemic and large number of retirements due to early out packages, even with the large amount of hiring that has taken place, we are only now getting back to the same level of Members as we had before ratification.
Additionally, during 2023 we celebrated Local 591’s Tenth Anniversary. During those ten years we have welcomed 1,294 AMT’s, 204 GSE/Facilities Maintenance mechanics, and 595 MLS Members into Local 591. As a Local we have made some significant gains to push our respective workgroups towards the wages we all deserve. For example, when our Local started a topped-out Line AMT with premiums was making $33.57 an hour. Today, because of our solidarity as a Local a new-hire starting wage for a Line AMT exceeds that, and the top-out pay has increased by $25 an hour. The gains are significant too with our MLS Members, as when the Local started a topped-out Line MLS with longevity premium was making $22.65/hour. Today, ten years later, a top-pay MLS makes $35.87/hour. Likewise, we have made significant wage gains in GSE and Facilities Maintenance, and more importantly we have kept, by far, the largest amount of these jobs in the industry. I highlight this because it was the solidarity and strength of our Local Membership which brought about those significant wage increases, especially compared to the nearly stagnant wages that most of us lived with throughout our careers. But we aren’t done yet, and we cannot be satisfied with the gains we made in the past. We provide some of the most vital skilled labor functions for the largest airline in the world, we need to get back to the top in the industry, and we need to have it written into the contract that we shall remain there throughout the contract. This will require the solidarity that our Local has continually showed we are capable of providing. It also requires professional ownership not only in the work that we do providing the safest and 100% IAW airworthy aircraft from the best AMTs in the industry, but also that same level of professionalism in all the crafts we represent. Lastly, it requires that we pass along that level of professionalism and pride in the work we do, and the knowhow in our crafts to those entering the profession. That includes the knowhow that solidarity on your crew, in your station, or systemwide is much more effective than standing alone against management. I believe that it is critical that we more seasoned Union Members take the time to show the next generations how to do the job right, discourage unapproved ‘shortcuts’, as well as supporting and promoting them (and ourselves) working more safely, including using all PPE, proper work platforms, proper tooling, etc.
Finally, I want to thank each of you for your support in 2023 and to ask for it again in 2024 as we begin our quest to get what we have earned and deserve. I again need to thank our Executive Board and all of our Representatives across the country for their support and the tireless work they all did in 2023, and for knowing they are up for the challenges we will face this year. As your Local President I do not take for granted the trust you put in me to lead our large nationwide Local. I truly believe our best days are right around the corner when we negotiate the best contract the industry has ever seen because American was met with the most unified group of M&R, MTS, MCT, and MLS workers they have ever seen. American can afford our demands, after all they just agreed to over $10 billion worth of wage and other enhancements for the pilots. The APA pilots were unified, and the time for us to unify starts now. At Local 591 we have 5200 members at 26 stations in 5 regions with 3 separate contracts that all need to Stand as One so we can accomplish our goals. I look forward to seeing each of you at a membership meeting whether in person or via Zoom, or during our station visits.
TWU Local 591