Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Game of Three

In a game of 3, doesn't only one vote matter?

It's generally accepted, especially when there are two clear directions in the game, that 2 of the players will "cancel each other out", leaving the third with the all-important deciding vote.

Apply that supposition to the current Flight Attendant union situation and, isn't it obvious? We have two constituencies, represented by the CAL and UAL flavors of AFA, each of approximately the same membership size (11,000+), each with a diametrically opposite vision for our combined future. The third player in this game is the relatively small CMI AFA, (<300) but whose MEC has the same voting power as its larger siblings. Hmmm. Essentially, CMI AFA IS the all-important deciding vote in this game of 3. Let me share what I know about this critical piece in the puzzle of our combined future...

CMI is lead by an Aviation Deregulation era veteran who knows whereof she speaks. CMI AFA MEC President Suzanne Hendricks was hired by Continental Airlines in the early 1970s, classic Continental's "heyday". At the time, I believe that the Flight Attendant union of record was AFA. Suzanne almost immediately went to GUM as part of the "Joint Venture" with the Federated States of Micronesia.

Continental, seeking to increase influence outside the US signed a pact with the Fed States of Micronesia to form an airline JV. Part of the agreement was that all non-technical jobs would be evenly split between CO staff and locals from the Marianas Islands which comprise the FSM. Suzanne was one of the first 12 or so CO "stewardesses" to go to the new mid-Pacific hub in Guam and she's never left! During the horrific 1980s (bankruptcy, strike, the Frank Lorenzo era of CO history), the CO JV staff were more-or-less marooned on Guam! As with other far-flung staff and crews, the CO contingent of the JV was advised that they were "on their own" when the bankruptcy occurred. Suzanne had made a home and started a family on Guam so, there she stayed.

In the F/A strike recall of 1986, Suzanne came back to work on the CO side in HNL, where I got to know her. The flying from the HNL base was great but it was a long commute (7+ hours) from GUM, often on the jumpseat. At the time, she was vehemently anti-Lorenzo & anti-company, as most were. Once things "normalized" to a degree, she was able to get on the CMI seniority list and return to GUM to fly where she's beeen ever since. I don't remember the exact date that she returned to GUM, only how happy she was to be returning home, to the life she loved. What a passion Suzanne has for her island home, her family and her "Air Mike" work family!

Suzanne worked for IAM when it absorbed the UFA (the independent Union of Flight Attendants which followed when CO decertified AFA) and has just about always been a local leader. Although she campaigned hard for IAM in the representational election, she eagerly adapted to the new reality of AFA and was elected CMI's MEC President. She's always been a unionist and, my word, a "union traditionalist", angry about all that was lost during the Lorenzo years. She has thrown herself into the study of labor relations & labor law, written "white papers" on the subject and, I believe, has at least one Labor Relations/Labor Law degree.

Suzanne is widely considered to be an expert on the subjects of unionism and labor relations.

What I've recalled here is just that, a recollection. My facts may be off slightly or the "tone" of what I've written may be slightly flavored by my personal relationship with and memories of Suzanne. This is not an objective report. Rather, it's a very subjective report of a trailblazer, a Renaissance woman who is passionate about what she believes, what she knows through education, and a lifestyle that she holds dear. Suzanne Hendricks is likely nearing the end of her aviation career but I wonder, has she yet made the seminal mark on our work lives that she's spent over 40 years preparing for?

I just wanted you to know a little more about the woman who very likely holds the future path of our Flight Attendants in her hands.

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