US Airways Union Leader Recalled Amid Contract Vote

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- The long-time president of the US Airways ( LCC) chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants has been recalled, 10 days before the conclusion of ratification voting on a new contract he championed.

Mike Flores, a 30-year flight attendant who has been president of the union's master executive council for seven years and previously served as president of the Charlotte local, said he wasn't told why he was being recalled, but he assumes it is because he has strongly backed the tentative contract while other union leaders were opposed.

The union president is elected -- and can be removed -- not by a popular vote, but rather by leaders of local councils, known as local executive councils. Leaders of the Charlotte and Philadelphia LECs voted Wednesday to remove him, while the head of the Washington, D.C. local voted to retain him. Voting is proportional to membership, and the Charlotte and Philadelphia locals are far larger than Washington's local.

"A few local leaders felt that I was pushing too hard for the contract and they decided to do something about it," Flores said, in an interview. "Ten days before the count date of a contract vote, they recalled me and gave me no reason.

I don't feel badly for myself, but I feel badly for the membership, to have this strong-arming during a ratification vote," he said. "(The LEC leaders) should have let this thing play out."

Terry Graf, president of the Philadelphia LEC, said that Flores was "derogatory in his treatment of the LEC presidents, (and) was very negative. The MEC president works at the behest of the LEC presidents, and that process had fallen apart."

As for the timing, Graf said, "The timing is never good to let someone go. It's sad to ever let anyone go." She said Flores had been offered the chance to resign. Cathy Campbell, president of the Charlotte chapter, declined to comment.

Over the past month, Flores has mounted an aggressive campaign to convince members to vote for the tentative contract agreement, reached after five years of negotiating. The Charlotte LEC declined to endorse it, while the Philadelphia and Washington councils are neutral.

Voting is slated to conclude March 30 on the tentative deal, which would sharply increase flight attendant pay and improve work rules, but would also increase health care payments.

Also, the contract would merge the flight attendant groups from US Airways and America West, following a 2005 merger. Some flight attendants from the former group, represented by the Charlotte and Philadelphia bases, are opposed to a section in the proposed contract that eliminates a decades-old US Airways practice of pairing flight attendant crews with pilot crews: They believe the section enables scheduling benefits.

A merger between the two airlines' flight attendant groups would mean new union elections, and Flores had previously said he would not run again but would "return to the line." A flight attendant since 1982, he now expects to return to flying again in April.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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