NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Laura Glading is a labor hero, someone who stuck her neck out to enable a merger that benefited her members and changed the face of U.S. commercial aviation.
But that doesn't mean Glading, who is president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, has pleased everyone with the tentative contract agreement that she is now trying to sell to members during "road shows" at all 13 American (AAL) and US Airways flight attendant bases.
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Nov. 9 is the last day of voting on ratification of the contract, which seeks to combine two contracts following the merger of the two airlines in 2013. Some flight attendants from both carriers are very strongly opposed, and they have filled flight attendant chat rooms on Facebook with their objections.
"Every time we put a contract out, it's tough," Glading said in an interview. "In 2003 and 2012, we had to ratify concessionary contracts, and I was heartbroken listening to some of the stories (about the impacts.) But this time, the contract is a tremendous improvement. We knew we would not have everything everybody wanted, but we wanted for everyone to be better off tomorrow than they are today."
Most importantly, "we wanted to put the most money where it would reach the most people, and that is in wages," Glading said. The commitment to industry leading wages was so strong that when Delta (DAL) announced in September that all employees would get a 4% raise, Glading got on the phone and convinced American executives to match it.
For a 15-year flight attendant working 80 hours a month, the hourly rate goes from $47.52 to $53.52 and then to $58.50 after four years. (The tenure requirement falls to 13 years.) The contract is worth $193 million more than the current value of the existing American and US Airways contracts, APFA said. Top-scale US Airways flight attendants get a 23% raise by the end of the contract.
Glading played a key role in mustering support for Doug Parker's management team, which staged an unfriendly takeover of American in 2013. She not only joined other American labor leaders as early backers of the effort, but also she was a key player in convincing the creditors committee to back it and to install Parker's team at American.
Now, Glading said she is confident the contract deal will be approved by a majority of the 25,000 American flight attendants, about two-thirds of whom work at legacy American. But she acknowledges that "Charlotte is the most negative when it comes to the contract -- I'm not sure why." With about 2,400 flight attendants, Charlotte is the biggest US Airways base.
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