Union Dues and Avoiding Arrears
It starts every month on pay day!!
The vast majority of AFA members opt to pay their dues through an automatic payroll deduction by filling out a Dues Check Off (DCO) form along with your AFA Membership form.
Within two to three weeks, your airline management sends to the AFA International Office the dues receipts as well as a report that identifies those flight attendants who have paid. From this report we learn who is not included and has not paid their dues (for whatever reason). We then send that flight attendant an invoice/bill. This would be an invoice for one month of unpaid dues.
At this point, the AFA International Office information is limited to the sole fact that this flight attendant has not paid. We do not know if this flight attendant is on a company convenience leave, medical leave, occupational injury leave, resigned, fired, deceased, etc. We only know that dues were not paid.
A month later, if that invoice has not been paid, AFA will send a reminder out to the flight attendant at the address we have on file. If that second month is also not paid, the second invoice will include the second amount as well.
If a third month goes by and AFA has not received a payment, we send a third invoice.
Shortly after this third invoice has been sent, AFA will send out our first letter which is called a "Standing 2 Letter" and starts off with the sentence, "we are concerned because we haven't heard from you." This lets the flight attendant know that AFA has sent previous invoices/bills to them, and asks that action be taken. We ask that they contact us at the AFA International Office, especially if they believe the information we have on file is incorrect.
If another month goes by since the third reminder, AFA sends a fourth invoice.
Shortly after this fourth invoice is mailed, AFA sends a rather stern letter that we call a "Standing 3 Letter." This letter informs the flight attendant that AFA has repeatedly sent bills, but has not heard any reply. To make sure that the individual knows the seriousness, this letter refers to the collective bargaining agreement and the fact that they could lose their job if they do not pay their dues. It informs the flight attendant that if AFA does not hear from them in 15 days, we will send management a letter requesting enforcement of the contract by terminating the employee for failure to pay dues.
This may sound harsh--and it is meant to be, as we prefer to get the flight attendant's attention before sending the final letter to management and truly jeopardizing their employment.
At this stage, over the course of at least four to six months, there have been four bills and two letters mailed to that flight attendant asking for payment.
If AFA still receives no reply, we send what we call a "Standing 5 Letter" to management requesting enforcement of the contract.
An important aspect to remember is that AFA only knows that we have not received dues from this individual (for whatever reason). In the vast majority of cases, the billing amount is correct given the information we have.
What AFA does NOT know is whether we are dealing with a flight attendant who is actively flying and refusing to pay, a flight attendant on some type of leave, or a flight attendant who may have left the company.
There are those flight attendants who refuse to pay and simply ignore all the invoices/letters for their own reasons. Those flight attendants who have left the company have their obvious reasons for ignoring our correspondence. The difficult group are those flight attendants who have gone on some kind of leave or "for whatever reason", did not have dues deducted.
Many times we hear "...those bills went to my mothers address," or, "...that mail was from the union and I throw that away". Sometimes we hear "...but I was in the hospital with broken bones from a turbulence incident and the dues were not high on my list."
We at the AFA International Office are not able to distinguish between the flight attendants that are either on company convenience leaves and the few on serious medical/hardship leaves. These are the most difficult arrears cases and the ones where we need the assistance of the Local Councils for clarification.
If you happen to find yourself in a possible arrears situation, please be sure to contact your Local Council representatives as well as the AFA International Office as soon as possible to be sure your particular case is resolved quickly before it develops into a potential termination.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure you stay in good standing with your dues:
- Always maintain an accurate mailing address on file with your Local Council as well as the AFA International Office in Washington, DC.
- Sign up for your dues to be automatically deducted through your paycheck by signing a Dues Check Off (DCO) form.
- Make sure you notify your Local Council representatives, as well as the AFA International Office, whenever you begin any type of leave. They will need to know the type of leave, start date of leave and expected return to active flying.
- Remember per the AFA Constitution and Bylaws (Article XI- page 53), you are required to pay dues during the first 90 days of any leave. You will be able to make payment directly to AFA for those 90 days by paying online (http://www.afanet.org/payment) or by sending a check. After the first 90 days, you can opt to be 'inactive' and pay no dues until you return to active status.
- If you are on Inactive Status (i.e., beyond the first 90 days of leave, and experiencing financial hardship, you may request a Dues Deferal from your Local President. If granted, you would not be required to pay the outstanding balance until you return to work.