In the Matter of
US AIRWAYS, INC.
COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA
27 NMB No. 26
CASE NO. R-6721
FINDINGS UPON INVESTIGATION-- DISMISSAL
December 17, 1999
On October 1, 1999, the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO (CWA or Organization), filed an application with the National Mediation Board (Board) pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, alleging a representation dispute among "Baggage Call Center Representatives" and "Dividend Miles Service Center Customer Representatives"(1) of US Airways, Inc. (US Airways or Carrier). With its application, the Organization submitted a letter attaching evidence and affidavits contending that these positions are already covered by an accretion to CWA's certification in Case No. R-6435 as the certified representative of the craft or class of Passenger Service Employees.
For the reasons set forth below, the Board finds that the positions at issue are already covered by the certification issued to CWA in Case No. R-6435. Therefore, the Board dismisses CWA's application.
CWA filed the application with a position statement on October 1, 1999.
On October 25, 1999, the Carrier submitted a position statement with supporting affidavits and evidence opposing the application on the basis that the DMRs are part of an Office Clerical Employees craft or class, not the Passenger Service Employees craft or class. While the Carrier agrees that the Baggage Service Call Center Representatives (BCCRs) share a community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees craft or class, it contends that the Board should conduct an accretion election in which the employees can determine representation.
On November 2, 1999, CWA responded to the Carrier's position reiterating that the DMRs are in the Passenger Service craft or class and that an election among BCCRs is unnecessary.
On November 8, 1999, US Airways replied to CWA's response reiterating the positions it advocated on October 25, 1999.
On November 17, 1999, the Investigator requested additional information, which was supplied by the Carrier on November 22 and December 7, 1999.
Do DMRs share a work-related community of interest with Passenger Service Employees? Do BCCRs share a work-related community of interest with Passenger Service Employees? If so, should the Board conduct an accretion election to determine if the DMRs and the BCCRs wish to be represented by CWA?
CWA contends that the DMRs and the BCCRs share a community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees craft or class. It contends that both groups did not exist at the time of the original certification election. Citing American Airlines, Inc., 10 NMB 26, 39 (1982), CWA enumerates the principle job responsibilities of Passenger Service Employees:
CWA contends that US Airways did not create the BCCR position until March 1997, when it established a Baggage Call Center. It states that the BCCRs have essentially the same job and interlinked duties with Baggage Service Agents who are in the Passenger Service Employees craft or class.
CWA contends that the DMRs did not exist in "either title or substance" at the time of the election in Case No. R-6435. CWA states that the DMRs were previously Administrative Representatives in the Dividend Miles Service Center and they had little, if any, customer contact. In their current position as DMRs, the Organization argues that the employees frequently interact with customers and passengers, whether by telephone, e-mail, or letter.(2) The other duties are also customer related, CWA contends, including: updating passenger account records; enrolling passengers in the Dividend Miles program and adding credits to their accounts; researching the ticket database for information such as flight numbers, itineraries, identifying and inputting information to issue awards in SABRE; and, updating centralized databases such as SABRE with passenger phone numbers and weather entries. CWA cites many "operational" connections between DMRs and Reservations Agents, who are currently in the Passenger Service Employees craft or class. CWA states that the Carrier has transferred many employees between DMRs and Reservations Agent positions. CWA says the fact that the Carrier conferred the new title "Customer Service Representative" on these employees, and the sign on the Dividend Miles Service Center's door reads "Customer Service."
CWA asserts that, even if the DMRs are not new positions, then "accretion is nonetheless appropriate" according to the Board's decision in Ross Aviation, Inc., 22 NMB 89 (1994). Also citing Ross, supra, CWA refutes US Airways' argument that the parties' underlying contract negotiating positions are relevant.
Finally, CWA asserts that, if the Board concludes that BCCRs and DMRs are an accretion to the Passenger Service Employees craft or class, an election is unnecessary because the current certification covers these employees.
US Airways does not dispute that the BCCRs could properly be considered part of the Passenger Service Employees craft or class and that the classification did not exist prior to March 1997. The Carrier argues, however, that the accretion of this position should be resolved only through an accretion election in which the employees determine their desire for representation by CWA.
The Carrier contends that the application for the DMRs should be dismissed . First, the Carrier says that DMRs do not perform any of the twelve tasks delineated by the Board for Passenger Service Employees. Second, the job functions of DMRs are substantially similar to the administrative and clerical functions that the Board has associated with the Office Clerical Employees craft or class. Third, DMRs do not share any community of interest with Passenger Service Employees, but they do with the Administrative Employees who would be in an Office Clerical Employees craft or class. Finally, the Carrier contends that its assertions are consistent with CWA's treatment of these positions. The Carrier contends that CWA never argued for inclusion of these employees in the 1996 application. CWA attempted to organize this group in the Office Clerical Employees craft or class in 1998, and CWA agreed during the Passenger Service Employee's contract negotiations that Dividend Miles Service Center employees were not within the scope of the Passenger Service Employee's contract.
The Carrier states that DMRs do not handle reservations work for program members or otherwise. The Carrier asserts that DMRs are responsible for "enrolling new program members; resolving discrepancies in milage credits or debits for existing program members; answering program members' questions about credits, bonuses or promotions; updating program members' account information such as changes of address; and providing support to other US Airways' employees who have questions about Dividend Miles program." While the Carrier admits that Senior DMRs spend almost all of their time on the telephone, the Carrier asserts that Senior DMRs "are assisting Dividend Miles program members in their capacity as program members," not as passengers. The Carrier claims that the DMR positions have existed and have not changed in any significant manner since 1989-1990.
US Airways says that while every major airline has frequent flyer programs similar to Dividend Miles, and a group of administrative employees are responsible for maintaining those accounts, the Board has not issued a decision which includes such employees in a Passenger Service Employees craft or class. The job duties of these employees demonstrate that they do not have a work-related community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees. The Carrier argues that DMRs' job duties would place them "squarely" in an Office Clerical Employees craft or class.
The Carrier also argues that CWA's agreement that Associate DMRs perform a clerical function but that the other DMRs should be in the Passenger Service Employees craft or class is untenable. The Carrier says that Associate DMRs are often promoted to DMRs as a result of training and cross-utilization. The Carrier asserts that the accretion of the DMRs and Senior DMRs (but not the Associate DMRs) would result in an unworkable division of Dividend Miles Service Center employees.
FINDINGS OF LAW
Determinations of the issues in this case is governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA or Act), as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188. Accordingly, the Board finds as follows:
US Airways, Inc. is a common carrier by air as defined in 45 U.S.C. § 181.
CWA is a labor organization and/or representative as provided by 45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth.
45 U.S.C. § 152, Fourth, gives employees subject to its provisions "the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The majority of any craft or class of employees shall have the right to determine who shall be the representative of the craft or class for the purposes of this chapter."
45 U.S.C. § 152, Ninth, provides that the Board has the duty to investigate representation disputes and shall designate who may participate as eligible voters in the event an election is required.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
I. Baggage Service Call Center Representatives
Prior to March 1997, the Carrier did not have a centralized call center for processing passenger inquiries about lost or damaged baggage. In March 1997, the Carrier centralized the process by setting up a Baggage Services Call Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The fifty-three BCCRs at the Center assist Carrier passengers over the telephone to resolve luggage problems. The job duties of BCCRs include:
These job duties are similar to those of Baggage Service Agents in the Passenger Service Employees craft or class.
II. Dividend Miles Representatives
Dividend Miles is the Carrier's frequent traveler award program. All DMRs work at the Dividend Miles Service Center, Winston-Salem, N.C. The Consumer Affairs and Internal Audit Departments are also in this center. Reservations employees work in two separate reservations centers in Winston-Salem: 349 in one center and 723 in another.
DMRs have three general position titles: Associate DMRs,(3) DMRs and Senior DMRs. DMRs are classified as Administrative Employees, with a different pay scale than Passenger Service Employees. DMRs are Grade 5, earning $7.93 to $14.25 per hour. Senior DMRs are Grade 6, earning $8.53 to $16.25 per hour. Both employees work five, eight-hour days per week.
The Carrier promotes the Dividend Miles program as a way to advertise to and to maintain the loyalty of the business traveler.(4) The US Airways Internet home page features the Dividend Miles program as integral to its passenger service.
Carole Blazer, Manager of Dividend Miles Customer Service, states that there are thirty-four DMRs, thirty-one of whom perform one of the following seven functions:
The job descriptions and job summaries set forth the following duties and responsibilities for these employees:
Dividend Incentives Representatives:
Dividend Miles Operations-Email Representatives:
The email representatives respond personally to incoming emails related to the Dividend Miles Program and many other aspects of the company. Representatives answer Reservations questions and review and redirect email involving lost and damaged baggage and special service issues. Email representatives compose their own electronic replies with no immediate supervision. The staff interacts with Dividend Miles representatives, Reservations agents, ATO/CTO personnel, Sales office staff, travel agencies, partner affiliates and other areas of US Airways operations to respond to customer inquiries and maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Dividend Miles Operations-Preferred Representatives:
Authorized to perform all duties necessary to service our most valued Preferred/Preferred Plus/Chairman's Preferred customers. The staff handles all incoming correspondence and receives incoming calls and places outgoing calls relating to Preferred/Preferred Plus and Chairman's Preferred customers. They also communicate with our customers personally by letter and email. The staff has the authority to perform bulk adjustments for past due mileage and give inconvenience miles when necessary.
Interact with Dividend Miles Customer Service Agents, Reservations Agents, ATO/CTO personnel, US Airways Sales staff, Travel Agencies, and other US Airways personnel and Partner affiliates in order to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Dividend Miles Operations-Quality First Representatives:
Dividend Miles Operations - Flex Team Representatives:
Perform several tasks and are cross-trained to be able to perform as email representatives, Specialty Partner, Customer Relations, and Quality First Representatives. They also respond to Customer Service telephone calls during peak periods.
Dividend Miles Operations-Customer Relations Representatives:
Dividend Miles Operations-Specialty Area Representatives:
This position handles all correspondence and telephone inquiries to the Dividend Miles Service Center regarding the following Dividend Miles Program partners: American Airlines, American Express, MCI, Bank of America, Diner's Club, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and ten other partner promotions. This position is responsible for ensuring that Dividend Miles accounts, including Preferred, Preferred Plus and Chairman's Preferred accounts, receive missing (retroactive) mileage credit from these partners and to answer any questions . . . .
The DMRs Club Administration perform one of three functions: Data Collection/Research, Accounting Representative and Customer Service/Phone Representative/Data Entry/Fulfillment. The employees in these positions perform more clerical functions. For example, Data Collection/Research Representatives:
The Accounting Representative and Customer Service/Phone Representative/Data Entry/Fulfillment are somewhat similar. These employees, however spend approximately fifty percent of the day doing customer service and call customers to get information.
B. Senior DMRs
There are currently 123 employees working as Senior DMRs. Three work Club Administration positions similar to those described above. The job summary for Senior DMRs states:
The primary responsibility of a Dividend Miles Customer Service Representative is to handle a high volume of incoming customer telephone calls on a full-time basis. The goal of these front-line employees is to quickly qualify the call and, using their empowerment and extensive technological skills, to accomplish our goal of one-call resolution. The representative must communicate Dividend Miles product knowledge in a professional manner. Our role is to ensure that all members, potential members and co-workers receive a timely, efficient and courteous response to their needs . . . .
The duties and responsibilities sections states that employees in this position answer "a high volume of phone calls (500 plus per week per representative) and respond to questions from Dividend Miles customers."
C. DMRs' Workload
From June 1, 1999, through September 30, 1999, a high volume of calls were handled at the Dividend Miles Service Center: 134,865 in July 1999; 132,442 in August 1999; and 115,116 in September 1999. These figures do not include e-mail contacts with customers or correspondence with customers.
D. Reservations Agents
Within the Passenger Service Employees craft or class are 1,072 employees who work in the Reservations Centers. The Winston-Salem Reservation Centers are separate from the Dividend Miles Service Center. The salary for Reservations Sales Agents is $8.81 per hour to $20.18 per hour after fifteen years of service. There are two basic job descriptions for Reservations Sales Representatives. The Mainstream Representative description states:
Sales Representatives answer inbound telephone calls, identifying the needs of the caller; answering customer inquiries; booking, canceling, or changing reservations using the Sabre Reservations system with CARE interface. Outbound calls may also be required to inform customers holding reservations of changes due to operation flight irregularities or schedule change. Sales Representatives must have a working knowledge of route structure, fare structure, fare rules, award program rules including application for mileage accrual and award reservations, and possess working knowledge of the processing of award program tier membership amenities, such as fare class upgrades and free award travel. Representatives must be able to change existing reservations/tickets and enter the appropriate data . . . .
The Chairman's Preferred Personal Liaison description states:
[M]ust meet the job description for a Mainstream Representative plus the additional requirements of the Chairman's Preferred assignment. . . . Liaisons will be responsible for the first and last point of contact in handling all customer issues, including resolving customer complaints. Liaisons must be technically proficient in Sabre reservations with CARE interface for the Chairman's Preferred Department and the Dividend Miles system through ATMS or ASTRO . . . . Liaisons are responsible for tracking specific flight requests, clearing waitlisted segments when possible, processing upgrades, and handling any other special requests made by elite members.
There are several classifications of Reservations Agents. Examples are AirSea (who answer calls for cruise lines and travel agents) and Conventions ( who book reservations for customers attending conventions). There are also positions that deal with the International awards customers.
The Board makes craft or class determinations based upon a work-related community of interest. American Airlines, Inc., 26 NMB 106 (1998); LSG Lufthansa Services, Inc., 25 NMB 96 (1997). In determining the appropriate craft or class for employees, the Board is guided by Section 5.1 of the Representation Manual which reads:
Individual cases require consideration of facts peculiar to particular situations, but, in addition, there are general factors to be considered. They may include, among others, the composition and relative permanency of employee groupings along craft or class lines; the functions, duties, and responsibilities of the employees; the general nature of their work; and the extent of community of interest existing between job classifications.
The Board looks to actual duties and responsibilities of employees, not merely at job titles. USAir, Inc., 21 NMB 402 (1994).
A. Dividend Miles Representatives
As the Carrier correctly notes, the Board has not addressed the proper craft or class of employees who provide frequent traveler customer service. Therefore, the Board must be guided by the specific facts presented in this case.
In a series of decisions, the Board has determined the difference between Passenger Service Employees and Office Clerical Employees. The Board found the Passenger Service Employees' function as follows:
[T]o provide service to the customer whether in selling tickets to passengers or providing services relating to the shipping of goods. . . . Emphasis must be placed on the inherent character of the contact, the equality of the contact, the frequency of the contact and the business exigency of the contact with the public.
Alitalia Airlines, 9 NMB 200, 224 (1982). See also, British Airways, Inc., 7 NMB 369 (1980); Laker Airways, LTD, 8 NMB 158 (1980). The essence of passenger service is "customer contact." See American Airlines, supra, at 119; China Airlines, LTD, 6 NMB 434 (1978); USAir, supra. The Board has stated that if the employees' principle function is passenger service, even if the employees perform clerical duties, they should be included in that craft or class. Laker Airways, supra.
Previously, the Board found the primary duty of Office Clerical Employees is handling the internal operations of the Carrier. British Airways, supra; China Airlines, supra.
US Airways states that DMRs and Senior DMRs neither converse with nor assist passengers. The Carrier says, "rather they are assisting Dividend Miles program members in their capacity as program members by assisting the members with their account information." US Airways argues that it is possible for an individual to be a Dividend Miles member without ever being a US Airways passenger.
However, the Carrier is contradicted by its own specific publications. US Airways frequent traveler program specifically seeks to encourage customer loyalty. Thus, the Carrier states that, through Dividend Miles, it hopes to make the business traveler identify US Airways as his or her "preferred airline."
DMRs interface with the Reservations Agents and calls are transferred between the two departments. The job descriptions for DMRs consistently refer to customer and customer satisfaction,(6) and many of the job descriptions specifically refer to interaction and interface with reservations.(7) From July through September 1999, there were approximately 12,500 calls transferred from the Dividend Miles Service Center to Reservations. While this is a small percentage of calls transferred, this is indicative of contact between the two departments. In the twelve-month period prior to the application, twenty employees transferred from Reservations to the Dividend Miles Service Center.
Reservations Agents previously handled some duties of the DMRs, such as updating weather entries, verifying class of service for upgrade and retrieving reservations schedules to assist in crediting miles. Reservations Agent Velvet Hawthorne declared there is an interface between Reservations and Dividend Miles when members combine mileage programs to obtain a free award. As described by Hawthorne,
The Reservations Department books these flights and the record is sent on queue. The queue is worked by agents in the Dividend Miles Service Center. The agent checks the record for all compliances to the rules and restrictions regarding the agreement between the two programs . . . .
The Board finds that the Dividend Miles Representatives and the Senior Dividend Miles Representatives share a work-related community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees craft or class because"customer contact" is the primary component of their job and these employees interface with passengers and reservations.(8)
US Airways argues that CWA should be stopped from claiming these employees as part of the Passenger Service Employees craft or class due to their prior conduct. The Board, not the participants, determines when accretion is appropriate and prior conduct of the Organization or the Carrier is not relevant in this case. See Ross Aviation, supra.
B. Baggage Services Call Center Representatives
The BCCRs are Passenger Service Employees. These employees perform work previously performed by Baggage Service Agents who are in the craft or class. Therefore, the Board finds that the BCCRs share a work-related community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees craft or class.
C. The Necessity of Representation Elections
The Carrier argues for accretion elections because these employees have the right to be represented by "representatives of their own choosing."
In Ross Aviation, supra, the Board reaffirmed its policy against the fragmentation of crafts or classes. Ross states that the creation "of a separate craft or class of Aircraft Inspectors . . . would be contrary to established precedent regarding the composition of the Mechanics and Related Employees craft or class and would cause fragmentation and instability." Since these employees were covered by a certification, an election was unnecessary and the Organization's application was dismissed. The Board consistently follows Ross when it finds particular job functions are those traditionally performed by members of the certified craft or class. Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 26 NMB 487 (1999); Mesaba Airlines, 26 NMB 227 (1999).
The Passenger Service Employees craft or class numbers 7,800 employees. The DMRs and Senior DMRs comprise 157 employees and the BCCRs 53 employees. The Board finds, to avoid fragmentation and instability, an election is unwarranted in this case.
CONCLUSION AND DISMISSAL
The Board finds that US Airways Dividend Miles Representatives, Senior Dividend Miles Representatives and Baggage Services Call Center Representatives are covered by the certification in Case No. R-6435 issued to CWA. As there is no basis for further investigation, NMB File No. CR-6673 is converted to NMB Case No. R-6721 and dismissed.
By direction of the NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD.
Stephen E. Crable
Chief of Staff
cc: Mr. John Hedblom
Mr. Morton Bahr
Daniel M. Katz, Esq.
Tom A. Jerman, Esq.
1. These positions are referred to as Dividend Miles Representatives (DMRs) by the Carrier. Initially, CWA included the following positions in Dividend Miles Service Center: Dividend Miles Representatives, Senior Dividend Miles Representatives and Associate Dividend Miles Representatives.
2. In its reply, CWA agrees that the Associate DMRs are clerical positions which do not share a community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees craft or class.
3. Based upon the job description and the evidence presented, the Board agrees that the Associate Dividend Miles Representatives are largely clerical employees and, therefore, do not share a community of interest with the Passenger Service Employees craft or class.
4. The Carrier's Earning Miles and Redeeming Awards Membership Guide reads, in part: " US Airways is dedicated to the needs of the business traveler. For this reason, we have created this brochure to guide you to the rich rewards of our Dividend Miles program." It continues: "Again, thank you for your participation in the US Airways Dividend Miles program. We look forward to being your preferred airline for years to come."
5. The "Dividend Incentives" program is described by the Carrier as one "which allows companies or organizations an opportunity to purchase US Airways Dividend Miles to give as an incentive to their customers and employees."
6. The job description for Reservations Agents also refers to the "customer" rather than the passenger.
7. For example, Dividend Miles Operations-Customer Relations Representatives are required to "research through the ticket database"; "reclaim any passenger for US Airways"; and "update the passenger name record in Reservations." DMRs in Dividend Miles Operations-Specialty Area answer calls from Reservations and "deduct mileage from the member's account and enter authorization into his/her reservation allowing the ATO/CTO to ticket the member to travel on short notice."
8. See infra note 4.