In midsummer of 2012, ATD Veterans Committee Recording Secretary Pete Meyer got a call from Local 501 Treasurer Angelo Cucuzza. The son of a Local 501 member, who had just finished boot camp, used the wrong classification of flight pass on his last trip home before being deployed. The member, who had worked at the American Airlines cargo facility at JFK for 27 years, had been terminated pending arbitration. Management argued that the member had violated flight policy by allowing his son to use a higher level of travel classification than he was allowed as a military serviceman — the classification he used was reserved for the children of employees attending college.
“It was completely unpatriotic,” said Pete, who also serves as the Veterans Committee representative for the New York area. “A child’s military status meant nothing to American Airlines. Why can you have a dependent child who is in college travel with one type of flight pass, but meanwhile we have a military member who is the same age who wants to come back to visit mom and dad at home — why can’t you give them the same privileges as college kids?”
When you travel standby at American Airlines, you do it by rank. Children of employees who are college students travel in the second-tier rank, after only the member themselves. Children who are on active military duty are in the third tier.
The airline’s flight policy for children of employees who are on active military duty had caused headaches before. Last year, a Local 562 member’s active duty son ended up spending two days of his leave period between tours at the airport waiting to get a third-tier standby seat on a flight home. After nearly 48 hours, the member decided that it just wasn’t worth it to for his son to spend another night sleeping in an airport terminal as his leave time ticked by — so he gave up on American Airlines and booked a seat for his son on another airline.
“How come a kid in college can come home whenever they want — Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break,” said Pete. “But a poor guy in the military can’t even get a seat on the plane because he’s flying D3 [third tier]?”
The situation at Local 501 was the last straw. “The flight policy was outdated and antiquated and needed to change,” said Angelo. “Pete Meyer did everything in his power to convince the manager at JFK to save the employee’s job. While the employee violated the rule, the rule was wrong. American Airlines claims to go above and beyond for active military duty members and veterans, so the policy just didn’t make sense.”
After around-the-clock pressure from the union and the Veterans Committee, the manager conceded and the member was brought back to work less than a week before his case would have gone to arbitration. “The manager agreed at the 11th hour to bring him back. We actually paid for the arbitration; that’s how close we were. It was a last-minute deal. Pete went down with the member and then went down on his own the next day to hammer home his point.”
But the Veterans Committee didn’t stop there. At their August meeting, Committee Chairman Hank Trujillo handed management representatives a copy of a letter requesting that the policy be changed. “We basically explained to headquarters that this policy of not allowing dependents who are in the military to travel unless they are D3 is outdated,” said Pete. “Our Chairman remembered seeing that same travel rule in the employee handbook he was given after being hired at American Airlines. These rules were probably in effect since before the Korean War. “
Although management agreed with the Veterans Committee that dependents in the military should be able to travel in D2, they said that American Airlines wouldn’t be able to start on a policy change until after the merger with US Airways. The Committee held firm, stating that with the holiday season coming up, the policy change was more important now than at any other time of the year and that military servicemen and their families just couldn’t wait.
On November 5, American Airlines sent out a special communication on their Jetwire system. The alert announced a company-wide policy change: All dependents under 24 years of age will be able to travel in the second-tier classification, whether in the military, the Peace Corps, or any other occupation or course of study.
“American Airlines would never publically acknowledge the behind-the-scenes work that the Veterans Committee did to change the policy,” said Angelo. “But I know personally that it was due to their persistence. Everything usually moves at a snail’s pace, and these guys on the Veterans Committee did a lot of good work. They kept it moving, and that policy change benefited the entire ATD Division.”
“Management agreed to this change on the travel policy because we worked together,” said Pete. “The Veterans Committee recognized the disparity and brought it to the company’s attention and they fixed it. Moving forward, we’d like to continue making sure that we get done what needs to be done for our men and women in uniform in partnership and agreement with management.”
“After all,” said Pete. “Many of us have a family member that has served or is presently serving our nation’s military. We are still at war. This is the longest war the United States of America has ever been in, and more dependants will be taking the solemn Oath of Enlistment and the solemn Oath of Office”.
Our veterans in the TWU are not only a tremendous source of pride for all union members, but also a source of aid and inspiration to the membership and their communities. Since its founding in 1934, the TWU has had the honor of counting among its membership generations of military veterans, dedicated to the ideals of brotherhood and loyalty, and with a commitment to their brothers and sisters in the military and in our union. Today, on Veterans Day, we thank all of our veterans for the sacrifices they have made for our country and people across the globe, as well as their service to union brothers and sisters after leaving active duty.
TWU veterans have led countless initiatives to support those on active military duty, from fundraisers to provide aid for the families of wounded servicemen to Local 514’s purchase of dozens of rucksacks for National Guard snipers in Tulsa, Oklahoma before their deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.
In just a few weeks, on December 8th and 9th, our ATD Veterans Committee will be working in conjunction with “Operation Military Embrace” and “Our American Duty” to distribute much-needed everyday items to Wounded Warriors and their families in San Antonio, Texas at the Brooke Army Medical Center. The Committee will be accepting donations until that time. To donate clothing, toiletries, children’s toys, etc., please contact the ATD at (817) 282-2544 or mail directly to Operation Free PX, C/O Jose Galarza, 1791 Hurstview Drive, Hurst TX 76054. More information below.
Previous initiatives have included Skyball, a fundraiser in support of North Texas military families; the Wounded Warrior Project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; and Tribute to the Troops, a donation drive to provide needed vacation time for Wounded Warriors.
Our Veterans Committees are also a powerful political force. Committee members are active in supporting legislation that strengthens both the labor movement and veterans, as well as in helping to secure benefits our military members are entitled to under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), as well as under their locals’ collective bargaining agreements. Our Veterans Committees also assist veteran members who are due benefits from the Veterans Administration, including retirement benefits, disability benefits, benefits under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), improvements in conditions, and any other issues affecting uniformed service members and their families. The Committee’s motto is simple but powerful: “Veterans Helping Veterans.”
TWU locals active in our ATD Veterans Committee represent members at American Airlines, American Eagle Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, and they include locals 501, 502, 507, 512, 513, 514, 530, 541, 542, 556, 561, 562, 564, 565, 567, 568, 570, 571, 575, and 576.
To get involved with the ATD Veterans Committee, please contact Jose Galarza, the TWU ATD liaison for the ATD Veterans Committee and TWU’s representative on the AFL-CIO Veterans Council, at JGalarza@twu.org. Jose joined the United States Army Reserve in 1991, and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2006 to April 2007, during which time he commanded and participated in over 100 combat logistical patrols.
Information on the Brooke Army Medical Center fundraiser & donation drive to support Wounded Warriors and their families:
Cash Donations and Checks can be deposited at any American Airlines Credit Union branch or mailed to the address below to Account number 794073486-00. Please make checks payable to:
"Our American Duty Ltd."
501c nonprofit organization Tax ID # 45-4338621
Checks can also be mailed to:
P.O. Box 619001 MD 2100
HDQ DFW Airport
In March, AA partnered with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in a reception and charter flight from New York to Washington D.C. for 32 of our country's most cherished treasures, U.S Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and their families.
"Being in the presence of these great Americans and hearing what they had to say about life, service, and honor was life changing for me," said Bill Clark – AA Corporate Communications.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is be-stowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 3,447 soldiers have received the Medal (95 are alive today).
"I want to thank the employees of American Airlines for their commitment and dedication to honor their fellow Americans," said Robert Howard, President, CMH Charter. "We are awed, this is a magnificent reception. We get a lot of accolades, but I have never seen anything like this," added Joe Marm – 7th Cavalry Vietnam 1964.
AA is active in its support of military service through such endeavors as Seats for Soldiers and Snowball Express. The all-volunteer crew who worked the flight were both honored and privileged to help some of our country's heroes.
"As a veteran myself, I felt it was an incredible privilege to honor these people by working this flight. These people are incredible heroes," said Flight Attendant Bruce Ferris, a Vietnam vet 101st Airborne 1969-1970. "At a time when the word 'hero' is so over-used it is an honor to be in the presence of so many real heroes."
"It was an honor and a privilege to carry these veterans and their families for this event," added Captain Mike Roy, AA Pilot and retired Air Force.
The passengers were surprised at departure by the port authority with a water salute of the aircraft by the fire department. Chief Pilot Mark Cronin announced to the cabin that the salute "was an aviation tradition for those we honor."
The Navy Times (6/26, Maze) reports, "Department of Veterans Affairs officials expressed confidence that the Aug. 1 launch of the Post-9/11 GI Bill will go smoothly, with the first benefits checks to be cut by the Treasury Department on Aug. 3. Testifying Thursday before" a House Veterans Affairs Committee panel, Keith Wilson, the VA's education service director, "said about 84,000 applications have been received, with 47,000 already processed and awaiting final certification of enrollment and calculation of tuition and fee payments." Wilson, "the VA official responsible for the program, is optimistic partly because a test of the accuracy in processing claims found 92 percent were done correctly, and most of the errors 'were fairly benign.'"
NextGov (6/26, Brewin) says that when Congress passed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, "veterans groups and critics worried" the VA "didn't have time to build a computer system to process the applications. But VA is processing claims faster than it receives them thanks to new information technology systems that partially automate the work, top department officials told" the House Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee on Thursday. NextGov adds, "Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said he appreciates 'the fact VA is re-doubling its efforts to make sure the new GI bill payment process works' and added that veterans and Congress need to be reassured that the agency is prepared to pay Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans their correct education benefit in a timely manner."
Strains of patriotic songs played throughout the main concourse in Chicago as the 29 Palms Marine band entertained customers in May. The band was just one part of a ceremony cooridinated by AA to honor U.S. Marines. The concert was followed by a military color guard marching down the hallway and ending up at Gate K3.
AA's Veterans Military Employee Resource Group (VMERG), led by Officer Linda Kozma, dedicated the gate to the Marine Corps during their first ever "Marine Week." Marine Week celebrates the heritage and service of Marines past and present. During the week, 2,000 Marines participated in community volunteer projects, Marine Band concerts, exhibitions of marine equipment and more on Navy Pier and other city locations.
Tim Raynor, AA pilot and Lieutenant Colonel organized the entire fleet week. Raynor took six weeks off from AA to coordinate the event, working closely with the ORD VMERG to create the gate ceremony.
"I'm very proud to be an employee of American today, just seeing the courtesy that's been extended to the Marine Corps, an organization that I love," said Raynor. "That is where I started." AA employee veterans enjoyed the combination of military and AA traditions. "This is a good example of actions and deeds," said Arizo Ghaewski, Chairman, Local 512 Veteran's Committee. "Everybody says 'support the troops', well how do you support the troops? By just words? Well, this ceremony showed action."
Boston Military Group Honors AA for Its Long-Standing Support of U.S. Armed Forces The Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts (AHAC), the oldest chartered military organization in North America, recognized American Airlines and its Boston-based employees for their service to the U.S. armed forces. American received the special award during AHAC's Ancients USO Night, its annual fund-raiser benefitting the USO New England.
"We remain humbled and in awe of the sacrifices our veterans and active military make in service to our country," said Jim Moses, American's General Manager at Boston. "These men and women are true heroes, and all of our efforts to support the military and their families is our way of saying thank you for their courage and dedication."
American's 1,900 Boston-based employees, along with their colleagues across the airline's system, support members of the military, veterans and their families, in their communities and when they travel. Special travel benefits include waived baggage fees, discounts on leisure travel, early boarding, preferred seating upgrades when available, Admirals Club admission for qualifying active members of the military, and travel sponsorship for Medal of Honor Recipients to their annual awards program.
In 2008, an American Boeing 757 and 737 were unveiled, with the tails of the two aircraft proudly sporting yellow-ribbon decals and the slogan, "In support of all who serve," on their fuselages. These two aircraft, along with a dedicated American Eagle ATR aircraft, are currently in service and are a daily reminder of AA's commitment to all of the troops currently serving the United States, as well as the thousands of American Airlines and American Eagle employees who are veterans or active service members.