No More “Subject to Change,” We Need a Real Contract

Thoughts from Bob Cavese, American Airlines Airport Agent, PHL

A little over two years ago, I was cut to part time during one of our Reductions-in-Force. Twice my station posted temporary upgrades to full time, once for summer traffic and then in preparation for the American Airlines–US Airways merger. As an agent with recall rights to full time, I applied for the temporary upgrade.

I was told that these agent jobs, were considered a “temporary duty,” despite being posted as temporary upgrades. Then, management said these jobs would be offered in seniority order, even to agents who were part time prior to the cuts. I couldn’t understand why the temporary upgrade to full time would not be offered first to those with recall to full time.

I had no union contract to turn to and no union steward to assist me. But I was able to grieve the company’s decision with the help of APSA/CWA.

Bob Cavese portrait

The company responded, “We have carefully researched the policy in the past and have determined not to change this particular language for several reasons.” This non-answer strengthened my belief that more than ever we need a voice on the job to negotiate our working conditions with management.

Our policies and procedures at American are currently “subject to change” without notice. That’s because we don’t have a legally binding contract.

Through APSA/CWA, we can file grievances when we feel our “at will” procedures have been changed or interpreted differently from location to location, but it’s not the same as having a contract and work rules we negotiated. With CWA, we can hold management to their word. We can be part of the solution before we even need one: with the union, we, the agents, could negotiate fair working conditions.

Talking with US Airways employees has shown me how valuable a contract can be in protecting our jobs and our profession.

Agent work that has been outsourced at American locations cannot be outsourced at US Airways because it is protected in their contract, and the US Airways agents’ work rules are negotiated and enforceable. It’s time for a voice at American that doesn’t change every time management does.

Recently, about a month after the grievance response, I was told by the manager that the two of us with recall to full time were now going to be upgraded in lieu of hiring two more part time agents. I’m convinced this would not have been the outcome without the help of APSA/CWA.