Tuesday, September 16, 2014, USAPA was terminated as the Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) for the US Airways pilots – West and East, and the APA was certified as the exclusive bargaining agent for all New American pilots. Within hours of this announcement, USAPA filed yet another lawsuit (click here) against West pilots and in particular, Roger Velez who was officially “served” on Saturday.
USAPA left the world of certified collective bargaining agents exactly as it arrived - by filing a lawsuit against West Pilots. This is the fifth time USAPA has brought a lawsuit against West pilots in a little over six years. In May of 2008, less than six weeks after it was certified by the NMB, USAPA sued 24 “named” West pilots and 100 “John/Jane Doe” West pilots under the Federal RICO statute (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). This lawsuit was promptly dismissed “with prejudice.” Undeterred, USAPA then appealed and the dismissal ruling was upheld. Subsequently, USAPA initiated another lawsuit (accompanied by a smear and misinformation campaign) against three West pilots for alleged identity theft. This lawsuit (and related efforts to have any and every state Attorney Generals take action on USAPA's behalf) did not progress, as the allegations were clearly baseless and aimed at illegally silencing dissent within USAPA. Later, USAPA filed another lawsuit in American’s bankruptcy court in an attempt to stop West pilots from pursing their seniority rights. This lawsuit was promptly dismissed as well. Now, USAPA has expressly named Roger Velez, the Certified West Pilot class, and Leonidas, LLC in another lawsuit asking the court to determine USAPA’s responsibility for dues disgorgement to all USAPA Members.
It seems as though USAPA holds strong animus towards Roger in addition to others who would stand up to it, like Eric Ferguson. Roger has been directly named in two of the five suits so far, and Eric has been named directly or implicitly in all of USAPA's lawsuits. Eric and Roger, among many others, have been selfless pilot advocates for a number of years while standing up for West pilots' rights in many different areas including plaintiff class representative, domicile vice-chairman, and most recently, both have been named members of the pending West Merger Committee. Just a few days before USAPA became the former bargaining agent (FBA), Roger sent a demand letter (click here) to the FBA's officers. This letter was written on behalf of ALL US Airways pilots seeking our rightful refund of dues. For some reason, this time USAPA chose to sue only Roger by name and Eric as a manager of Leonidas LLC. Let’s not forget for a second that the sole reason for the formation of USAPA was to abrogate the Nicolau Award (Addington vs. USAPA I, Exhibit 14). It begs the question that most everyone will quickly realize: Are Roger and Eric being targeted by USAPA in its continued quest to abrogate the Nicolau Award so it can replace it with the East’s own extreme and unyielding seniority list? This is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the FBA’s action.
Let’s face some facts here and now: As of last Tuesday morning, all US Airways pilots are represented exclusively by the Allied Pilots Association. It is clear the USAPA officers are confused and/or delusional as to their rights, duties, obligations and limitations as they have already clearly exceeded any “authority” they might have to act on behalf of their “members.” Current USAPA officer (and USAPA founder) Stephen Bradford again wasted no time squandering money by suing former America West pilots and using our own money against us. The officers must be keenly aware that they would be unable to raise funds for such a purpose (unlike the West pilots’ robust voluntary fundraising), forcing them to take the risky move of using funds they have no clear and ongoing right to use to for their own nefarious purposes. Remember, USAPA obtained its treasury surplus while acting as the legal administrator of US Airways pilots under Section 29 (Union Security Clause) of both contracts. What zealot believes he could then convert these compulsory dues for voluntary purposes unrelated to collective bargaining and contract enforcement on behalf of the members? We wonder how long APA will stand by and allow one subset of its membership to sue another subset. Say it isn’t so, but that sure looks like dual unionism and has the potential of creating a DFR violation for APA.
The latest lawsuit is, without question, the continuation of Bradford's deep-seated hostility toward the AWA pilots and yet another attack on the alternate dispute resolution (ADR) process. This was the very reason for USAPA’s creation and remains the very reason for its continued existence. Now as a FBA, USAPA is again aiming to stop the Nicolau Award by using monies it received from all US Airways pilots by way of collecting compulsory dues to harass West pilots and limit our ability to prosecute our legal rights. It's the same as it ever was, but we believe the realization that USAPA's Officers now lack any protection under the RLA will catch up with them harshly. USAPA's long history of being hostile to a number of arbitrators and judges when a decision didn’t comport with their overly-ambitious and unrealistic expectations will likewise come back to haunt them some day soon too. The former CBA’s arbitration track record includes recently suing an arbitrator in Federal Court to vacate a decision. Dismissal was the predictable outcome of that lawsuit which did nothing to help USAPA's abysmal reputation among the small community of arbitrators. Likewise, USAPA and many East pilots accused Judge Wake of bias and George Nicolau of being old and senile!
Whether a particular pilot, or group of pilots, likes or dislikes an arbitrator’s award is really irrelevant. Once two parties agree that an arbitration is to occur, the resulting decision is sacrosanct. USAPA's biggest supporters now fear, more than anything else, the APA doing to it what it has sought to do to West pilots all along. Fortunately for them, West pilots haven't caved to their bullying and harassment so Bradford's perverse theory of changing the name of your bargaining agent to evade the result of an arbitration remains unproven. This is exactly why Roger’s ongoing advocacy for a particular arbitration (with the unwavering support of all AWA pilots) is the penultimate example of being “good union pilots.” We are protecting the arbitration process now, and into the future. The former bargaining agent has been acting to destroy the sanctity of arbitration for all union members (and labor as a whole), not enhancing arbitration as they should have.
This lawsuit, like all the other USAPA lawsuits, is designed to specifically stop West pilots from pursuing their arbitrated seniority rights, and to intimidate and oppress West pilots into giving up their rights, as well as to deplete the West pilots’ finances via ongoing litigation fees and expenses. It hasn't worked before, and it won't work now. It's just another example of poor judgment and wishful thinking on their part and it is our expectation that it will make for a redoubling of commitment from West pilots to see justice prevail.
Is USAPA attacking Roger because he has volunteered to be a member of the West Merger Committee? Appointing a West merger committee is an obligation that APA asserts is their right and responsibility as the exclusive bargaining agent to provide the fair seniority integration process required by McCaskill-Bond (M/B), a fair seniority process USAPA has always opposed since its inception. Now, USAPA seeks to interfere with APA’s duty to fairly represent all pilots by undermining the ability of a West Merger Committee to adequately represent the West pilots in a preliminary arbitration and subsequent SLI arbitration.
While all of this is going on, the SLI process is moving forward. Last Thursday, USAPA and APA announced the arbitrator selection for the SLI. Dana Eischen, Ira Jaffe, and M. David Vaughn. On Wednesday, September 24, 2014, the selection of arbitrators by USAPA and APA for the Preliminary Arbitration is expected to be announced.
Regarding the current lawsuit, our attorneys are reviewing USAPA’s DJ filing and will ensure the best course of action and most effective response. In the meantime, it is recommended that no one makes any changes regarding USAPA membership and that we remain focused on the Preliminary Arbitration.
All this activity requires continued funding for the attorneys and the West Merger Committee in preparation for the M/B arbitration. Continued contributions are essential to this effort. While we hope for some funding assistance one day, the other parties have made it clear that West pilots are on our own financially for the foreseeable future. We are participants in a process that was forced upon us which purports to be “fair and equitable” despite the other parties awareness of the disparate facts outlined herein.
Thank you for your ongoing support. We will succeed so long as we do not waiver or quit.