In 1999, Bryan Bedford became CEO of Chautauqua Airlines, when the airline was flying Saab 340's, Jetstream 31's and two EMB145's exclusively for US Airways. At that time, the pilots of Chautauqua were working under a new contract, ratified in 1998, which (for the first time) included pay and work rules for the EMB-140 and 145. Bedford immediately requested a long extension of the then-current agreement in order to secure more flying for US Airways. The proposal to extend the CBA/contract was presented to the membership by the then-sitting EXCO in the fall of 1999. Mr. Bedford directly stated that without the extension to the contract, there would be no more jets at Chautauqua. Despite this threat, the pilot group voted to decline the contract extension. Subsequently, a new code-share with TWA and US Airways occurred.
In the summer of 2001, the pilots voted down a tentative agreement between the Company and the Union. After 9/11, the Company terminated 125 pilots out of seniority order.
In 2002, negotiations were restarted with new Union leadership. Negotiations dragged on throughout 2002 and most of 2003 due the multitude of carriers in the regional industry that had agreed to concessions as well as the economic downturn that reached beyond the airline industry.
Efforts began to start Republic Airlines as an “alter-ego” carrier competing with Chautauqua Airlines (then privately owned by Wexford Capital) by flying 145’s out of Louisville using furloughed US Airways pilots. The Company was well aware of the Freedom Airlines success in undermining the bargaining position of Mesa pilots; and had every intention of doing the same at Chautauqua. Corporate executives wielded the threat like a club and were careful to publicize their progress in the Indianapolis and Louisville media.
Negotiations were quite contentious in 2003, with the Company threatening to outsource Chautauqua jobs. Every airline contract signed post-9/11 had been concessionary. Mesa pilots agreed to a horrendous contract with 50-99 seat rates (comparable to our 145 rates) in order to stop the Freedom Airlines alter-ego successfully created by their management.
The Local took a strike vote in the summer of 2003, with 95% of the pilots voting in favor of striking should we reach that point in the lengthy process dictated under the labor-oppressive Railway Labor Act. Management accused the Union of causing the Company to lose United Airlines 145 flying and financing of other aircraft. Mr. Bedford, in one of his weekly letters, advised all of the employees of Chautauqua Airlines that the pilots were directly responsible for the loss of the United flying. Although arguably a violation of the status quo requirement in Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, the Company furloughed 60 pilots immediately following the strike vote and justified layoffs citing economic stress created by the strike vote. Such tactics during negotiations are referred to as "Hostage Taking."
At the time our current CBA was ratified, we had 703 pilots at Chautauqua Airlines. The Union was negotiating against a management group that was attempting to replace us with cheaper pilots at an alter-ego airline when one of our direct contemporaries, Mesa Airlines, had successfully beaten its pilots down doing the same. It was also seemed apparent the National Mediation Board was not going to release the pilots for a strike anytime soon. We were negotiating in a concessionary environment, under the threat of an alter-ego, with little or no leverage.
The Company and the Union came to a tentative agreement (TA) which included our current Scope language - an industry first. Over the five year term, the TA included a 68% pay increase for FOs and a 38% pay increase for captains. Unfortunately, the tentative agreement assumed good faith with regard to contract compliance.
This was the first non-concessionary agreement post-9/11 and the first agreement to bind the holding Company to the scope of a pilot contract. Our Union was able to protect pilot jobs well into the future when virtually every airline in the industry was either accepting concessions or having concessions forced upon them in bankruptcy court.
As you may know, contracts subject to the Railway Labor Act do not expire; they become amendable. The current CBA became amendable in April 2007. That same month, the Union requested to open Section 6 contract negotiations. The last contractual pay raise was in October of that year.
Both the Company and the Union have an obligation to maintain the "status quo" provisions of the Railway Labor Act that apply during the course of negotiations. Negotiations continued until Local 747 was placed in trusteeship in April 2009. During trusteeship, the Union was not in continuous, active negotiations with the Company until December 2010. During that time, Local 357 was chartered under new leadership, specifically for the purpose of representing the pilot group at Republic Airways Holdings (which had grown with the purchase of two additional airlines).
In April 2011, the Union filed a request for mediation with the National Mediation Board. Unfortunately however, the following negotiations proved unproductive. The Union filed a proffer of arbitration in July 2012 but the NMB refused to release the parties.
From November 2013 through February 2014, the Union and the Company engaged in direct negotiations, outside the NMB, using a private mediator; a tentative agreement was announced in February 2014 and was put to a vote. The pilots overwhelmingly rejected the offer (85% voting against, 89% voter turnout).
In April 2014, the Executive Board appointed Dan Guerra as the Negotiating Committee Chairman to fill the position vacated by Dan Sneddon earlier in the year. Dan worked with the Executive Board to release surveys in order to identify the items the pilot group wanted to have in order to ratify a new TA. Dan selected a new Negotiating Committee and the new members were announced in the Pay Day Update on June 5.
The Negotiating Committee spent 3 weeks in August living in a hotel across the street from Republic headquarters; convening in order to establish a firm outline and to be available to restart negotiations with the Company. Throughout September, the Committee continued to make the Company aware of the pilots’ eagerness to negotiate at the soonest time possible. The Company continually cited the excuse that they didn’t want to meet unless the NMB directed them to do so. Meanwhile, the NMB encouraged both parties to feel free to meet directly. A meeting with both parties and the NMB was finally scheduled for October 22nd.
On October 22nd, both parties met with the NMB in Annapolis, Maryland. The Company pleaded to only negotiate the four articles that were negotiated in the 2014 failed TA. The Negotiating Committee made it clear to the Company and NMB that the pilot group would only ratify a deal if all articles were negotiated.
On November 6th, 2014, the Company and the Negotiating Committee began meeting. The parties signed a protocol agreement agreeing to meet every Tuesday and Thursday until a TA is reached.
In February 2015, the NMB provided a schedule for one week of mediation per month through the end of April 2015. The Company utilized this as an excuse to skirt the Protocol Agreement’s mandated weekly meetings on Tuesday and Thursdays. The Negotiating Committee reluctantly agreed to meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays every other week.
In late March of 2015, the Company reversed course and wanted to meet every day to get a deal done by the end of April. Daily negotiations continued through almost the end of May. By this time, the parties had reached tentative agreements on 19 of the articles.
In early June 2015, the Company presented a “Comprehensive Closeout Proposal” to the Negotiating committee valued at $125 million over a 3 year period. Even though it had been made clear to the Company that a ratifiable TA could not be reached with that dollar amount, the Company stood firm.
In July 2015, the Local filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis (case number: 1:15-cv-01066-WTL-MJD) seeking an injunction, judgment and relief against the Company's repeated unlawful offers of higher rates of pay for current pilots and signing bonuses for new hires. The Union maintained that the offers violated the “status quo” under the RLA and that the changes should be addressed at the negotiations table.
On August 20, 2015, Republic Airways Holdings presented their "Last, Best and Final Offer", bypassing normal protocol and releasing the information directly to pilots and the public. Days later, the Company warned that they may have to seek bankruptcy protection if its latest labor proposal fails. The Executive Board determined not to put the offer to the pilots for a vote and developed a counter-proposal should the Company agree to return to the bargaining table. In a letter dated September 1, IBT General President James P. Hoffa stated that he would not overturn the EBoard's decision regarding the vote. In a press release on Sept. 2, the Local restated that it was willing and ready to resume negotiations with RAH to complete a consensual agreement as soon as possible. On Wednesday, September 9, the National Mediation Board asked both the Union and the Company to attend a September 16th session in Washington. The Company and the Union met again with the NMB on September 24 in Chicago.
On September 28, the Local and the Company announced that a Tentative Agreement was reached. (press release)
Members voted to ratify the 3-year agreement in a vote that closed on October 27, 2015 (press release). The contract was signed by both parties and went into effect on October 29.
For more information, please see the Local 357 Timeline of Events and Press Releases under About Us, Media Information