Friday, February 12, 2010

Raiders, Not Union Builders

If you make the decision to go with DPA, you should know that you're hiring Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen (SSM&P) as the chief advisors and legal team to run your union. SSM&P is good at one thing, and running a union isn't it.

SSM&P specializes in raiding unions when the membership is emotional over a contract, an arbitration award, or a bankruptcy. They'll tell the group whatever they need to hear in order to win them over. For the East pilots, it's how they'll change the Nicolau award. For the West pilots ... well, let's just say Seham couldn't stand the heat of the desert and didn't have anything to tell them other than to complain about being recorded and to distort what he had previously said.
In this respect, Seham denied in PHX that he ever said anything about making a "cost neutral" agreement with the Company. However, the tape of the PHL meeting shows that Seham told the group that one of the first agreements USAPA would make with the Company would be to reorder the seniority list, a deal the Company would be happy to make because it would be "cost neutral."

Aside from the lie about having used the term, the claim shows incredible naivete. No company ever views a major accommodation to a union as "cost neutral"- particularly one that will inevitably lead to litigation. Anyone who believes that the Company will perform this "cost neutral" favor for free, particularly in the present environment, is obviously not connected to reality. And, to make matters worse, USAPA made it clear in PHX that it did not have a "Plan B" in the event the Company either was unwilling to make Seharn's "cost neutral" accommodation or insisted on a contractual concession in exchange.

The lack of candor exhibited in PHX is typical of a group of advisors who are skilled at attacking unions but have established a miserable record when it comes to representing them. They claim to be professional negotiators, but not a single member of the firm has ever negotiated a pilot agreement. They claim to be union lawyers, but under their counsel, various airline managements have hired scabs, threatened union workers, and sought to deprive them of hard-earned wages and benefits in bankruptcy.

SSM&P helped bring the B-scale into the industry and, while representing unions, lost cases that gravely undermined your right to strike and negotiate. They have been fired by the APA and the PFAA, and over the past five years, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), their primary labor client, has been reduced from 17,000 to approximately 3,000 dues-paying members. Simply put, SSM&P's record in no way supports its claim to your trust.

The mechanics of United Airlines voted overwhelmingly to oust AMFA on March 31, 2008. Should the pilots of US Airways step up to restore this loss of revenue for the Seham firm? Or should you reflect on why it is that yet another group of workers has concluded it is important to be part of the labor movement and left Seham and his clients behind?

Will you be the next group of employees who quickly come to the realization that Seham - style company unionism doesn't work?