NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The arbitration that nobody wanted has ended with Laura Glading maintaining that it went well, "but you never know in arbitration.
"We put on an excellent case," Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 24,000 American Airlines (AAL) flight attendants, said in an interview. "We did think it was important to have some 'me-toos,' because we wanted to be sure we are treated fairly. We put up some good arguments for the 'me-toos.'"
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In the arbitration, APFA asked for the "me-too" clauses providing them with profit-sharing and better health insurance if other unions secure those items in negotiations, as well as retroactivity to Dec. 2 for the pay raises flight attendants have secured. "It seemed silly to postpone (the raises)," Glading said.
The arbitration took just two days, even though it had been scheduled to include sessions through Dec. 30. A ruling is expected in early January.
American, in a prepared statement, said it continues "to work through the process to reach joint labor contracts for all of our work groups, including our flight attendants who will realize significant wage increases when the arbitration is complete."
The two sides had agreed to arbitration if they could not secure a contract. In votes counted Nov. 9, a tentative contract agreement was opposed by 8,196 flight attendants while just 16 fewer backed it.
APFA has estimated that the rejected contract agreement was worth about $81 million more than the contract the flight attendants will work under. But the arbitration contract will still represent an improvement of $112 million over existing contracts.
Twenty-nine-year flight attendant Trice Johnson, a leader of the opposition to the tentative agreement and a candidate for Miami base president in upcoming APFA elections, said two days was too short.
"The majority of the flight attendant membership that rejected the TA viewed the less-than-two-days hurried arbitration testimony as reckless and punitive by a union leadership miffed by the fact that they could not sell a flawed tentative agreement to its members," Johnson said.
American flight attendants have "steadily and voluntarily given back concession after concession for more than a decade," he said, adding, "The union could have spent the members' time more wisely by utilizing an appropriate time line (30 full days of testimony) to present a thoughtful and accurate case to the arbitrators."
A union spokesman responded: "The arbitration parameters were very clear. APFA proved to the company and the arbitrators what a market contract is worth. We then explained how we wanted that value. The contentious issues were the 'me-toos' which we debated thoroughly."
The APFA remains bitterly divided following the contract vote. The divisions are likely to be reflected in elections at the union's dozen bases, with campaigns ramping up now and interest unusually high.
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