TIME FOR A THIRD PARTY INTERVENTION
During our September 11th negotiating session, TWU Local 555’s negotiating team notified SWA of our intent to file for mediation. This was followed by the company’s claim to file jointly. The previous three contracts have all included a federal mediator, or mediators, assigned from the National Mediation Board during the bargaining process. The reasons we filed at this juncture are predicated by the lack of progress in the current talks. We will not allow the company to stall on our issues while trying to promote their onerous proposals that would diminish our quality of life. These proposals also negatively affect our customers, as well as the long-term success of the airline we spent so long to build. While only the parties can agree on contract provisions, there are many things that federal mediation can do to facilitate a more constructive and effective collective bargaining process. For example, bargaining under federal mediation ensures that the parties are ready and prepared at the outset of the mediation session. Mediators have the authority to schedule extended sessions, and even back-toback weeks. They can call a party “on the carpet” as needed – for example, taking appropriate measures to deal with parties that are clearly delaying or obstructing the process. While we realize that the number of mediation sessions and length of time in mediation does not always necessarily correlate with results; intensive and productive mediation sessions more often than not produce desired results for both parties. Do not confuse a mediator with an arbitrator; they are very different and have different roles. The mediator is just that. He mediates the dispute in hopes of the two parties reaching an agreement. He has no power to force either side to give or take any offer. His sole job is to get a contract, regardless of who wins or loses. Nonetheless, the mediator does have the power to schedule the meetings, dates, and locations. We could be meeting in Fargo, North Dakota if he so chooses, or any other location he sees fit. The union stands ready to meet any place, any time. Federal arbitration, on the other hand, could be offered if the mediator cannot get the parties to agree. If the mediator decided to declare an impasse, he would then offer binding arbitration with a federal arbitrator. Binding arbitration would have to be agreed on by both parties, TWU 555 and the company. Of course, before TWU could agree to binding arbitration, we would have to put the question out for a vote by the membership. (In essence, the membership would have to vote on whether or not to surrender their vote in favor of allowing an arbitrator decide what your contract will be.) The arbitrator would decide what he thinks is fair, and that is what we would be forced to work under, with no choice. In the event we get to the point where arbitration is offered and declined by either party, the mediator would start the 30-day cooling off period. After the cooling off period, both parties are free to engage in “selfhelp”, which can be any one of a number of possible work actions, both on the part of the union and/or the company. Before engaging in any form of self-help, though, the union membership would vote whether or not to engage in a specified work action in the first place. In closing, we are now moving forward under the auspices of federal mediation together, and as your president let me reassure each member that your union is committed to improving the quality of work rules, compensation, and benefits that reflect our contribution to the growth and continued prosperity of SWA.