As a spectator I’m oft amused but the labor integration issues associated with mergers of unionized companies. As a customer I’m horrified because it nearly always is bad news for me as the crews bicker over which set of rules will prevail and how the "other" side is so horrible. But as a spectator those same situations can be rather entertaining as the employees slowly move to integrated operations.
The current integration efforts of the legacy Continental and United Airlines‘ crews are the latest such spectacle, replete with the usual bone-headed "lobbying" of customers and complaints, either in the galley or openly to passengers, about how the changes are bad. I’ve heard far too many crews on United flights recently announce that a "Proud Continental Crew" is working the trip and even some "Real United Crew" announcements. It is petty and stupid and does nothing to make the situation better for anyone.
I’ve also had a few experiences where the crews are getting over it in more ways than one. A recent flight from Phoenix to Houston had a "trans-Con" FA working the flight. This was a sUA FA who chose to switch to the sCO side (CO is hiring and UA is not due to aircraft delivery schedules and the lack of an integrated workforce). She cited a number of reasons for making the switch while we chatted, mostly focused on improving her personal quality of life, even in spite of her union trying to limit the ability of the FAs to make that switch. Can’t say that’s a bad thing at all for her, though it is strange that the union is getting in the way rather than helping the situation.
Over the weekend I was introduced to another group of flight attendants working to change the way the split crews of the single company are interacting: The Sister and Brotherhood of the Traveling Scarves and Ties.
OK, so the name is a bit unwieldy, but the idea is a pretty simple one and a pretty cool one. Flight Attendants are being encouraged to share the scarf or tie component of their uniform with a FA from the other side of the company. It is, by many accounts, a silly gesture. But it is also quite a symbolic one. They all really do work for the same company and serve the same customers. Remembering that is a good thing.
And the good news is that it seems they’ve got a decent number of folks participating from the beginning. In other words, maybe the labor situation really isn’t so bad, at least where the folks doing the actual work are. A guy can dream…
Oh, and can we stop with the silly "Proud Continental" and "Real United" crew announcements. Please??