We are pleased to announce that the Preliminary Arbitration panel has issued an award granting the America West Merger Committee's request to be designated as an independent, autonomous merger committee in the McCaskill-Bond seniority integration process. The Award states, in part:
[T]he Board concludes that APA's designation of a West Pilots Merger Committee is consistent with the Protocol and MOU; is consistent with the McCaskill-Bond requirement that the SLI process be fair and equitable; is a proper and reasonable exercise of its discretion; and is fully consistent with APA's duty of fair representation to all Company pilots. Indeed, in this particular case, the Board concludes that fairness and equity demand the appointment of a West Pilot Merger Committee to participate in the SLI process.
We have posted the Award on our website at www.west-merger-committee.com.
Although many of you might have believed this arbitration outcome to be a foregone conclusion from the outset, the arbitration itself and the path to get here were anything but certain. Therefore, it is worth taking a few moments to consider the significance of this arbitration award.
On April 18, 2008, America West pilots were forcefully robbed of our representational autonomy by a very formidable and spiteful majority known as USAPA. As we all know, the primary purpose of USAPA was to remove any and all authority America West pilots had with regard to the bargaining rights over our seniority, and hand those rights to the East pilots who could then attempt to unilaterally dictate new seniority terms to us. The Preliminary Arbitration Award (PAA) affirmatively returns those rights to their rightful owners: the America West pilots.
In other words, we have now officially survived USAPA's reign and have once again assured that our seniority rights can ONLY be resolved according to fair and equitable principles in a fair and equitable process.
Today's news also means that the burden of defending or bringing seniority-related lawsuits is no longer that of the West pilots. While it is our hope that USAPA will simply accept this outcome and find ways to work with us moving forward, USAPA's history suggests the likelihood of yet another legal challenge to an arbitrator's decision. However, we believe that both American Airlines and APA entered into the Protocol Agreement fully prepared to defend any legal challenge USAPA may bring, and will succeed at doing so.
Today's news further means that our seniority dispute is officially removed from the uncertainty of the federal court system and rightfully placed back into the very forum in which the Nicolau Award was created: labor arbitration. We will no longer need to advocate for our seniority rights with expensive lawsuits that span many years, decided by federal judges constrained by archaic labor laws. We have now returned a forum that will give proper due to the Nicolau Award and that is extremely capable of affirmatively and permanently resolving our dispute.
Having said all of the above, it is now more important than ever that we put aside all of this unpleasant history, but still learn and apply its lessons. Perhaps the largest lesson of the past several years is that the seniority integration MUST be resolved in the agreed-to process, and cannot and will not be resolved in cockpits and crew rooms. And although we have to expect that each committee will have widely disparate views about how our respective seniority lists should be integrated, those views should begin and end within that process. There WILL be an integrated airline at the end of this process this time, we will be sharing cockpits with our counterparts, and none of us wants to come to work in a divided, hostile work environment.
Pursuant to the terms of the Protocol Agreement, we will immediately begin efforts to procure employment data from the company and the other merger committees, as well as engage the other committees with regard to preliminary matters.
This is a very proud day for the America West pilots. We simply could not be here today without our unity, and your continuing moral and financial support. We look forward to keeping you updated in the coming weeks.
The America West Merger Committee
David Braid Mark Burman Johan de Vicq
Eric Ferguson Jeff O'Connell Russ Payne
Jim Van Sickle Mitch Vasin Roger Velez