U.S. NAO Submission 9901: Public Hearing
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
U.S. National Administrative Office
Patricia Friend, International President, Association of Flight Attendants
Lance Compa, Esquire, counsel to the Association of Flight Attendants
Alejandra Barrales, President, Association of Flight Attendants
Lic. Jose Luis Mendoza Garcia
Sergio Centeno Mota, Flight Attendant, TAESA
Carlos Alvarez Tejeda, Flight Attendant, TAESA
Jorge Armando Barrientos Vivas, Flight Attendant, TAESA
Tim Beaty, Solidarity Center, AFL-CIO - Mexico
Daniel Saucedo, ASSA, Flight attendant
FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR:
Lewis Karesh, Acting Secretary U.S. National Administrative Office
Peter Accolla, Advisor, NAO, International Programs
Barton Widom, Deputy Associate Solicitor
(The testimony of Ms. Barrales, Mr. Mota, Mr. Mendoza Garcia, Mr. Tejeda and Mr. Vivas are the translated from Spanish to English.)
MR. KARESH: Good morning. My name is Lewis Karesh, and I'm the Acting Secretary of the U.S. National Administrative Office, and I'll be conducting the hearing this morning. I'm assisted by Bart Widom from Solicitor's Office, and Peter Accolla, from the National Administrative Office. There are also other staff members in the NAO available if you need any assistance. Head sets are available, for interpretation, outside in the hallway. If you have any problem, you can see one of the technicians or someone else from my office.
This hearing is being conducted in accordance with NAO procedural guidelines established pursuant to Article 16 of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation. These procedural guidelines were duly published in the Federal Register on April 7, 1994. Notice of today's hearing was timely published in the Federal Register on February 24, 2000. The purpose of this hearing is to gather relevant information that will assist the National Administrative Office in preparing a public report with respect to U.S. NAO Submission 9901.
Submission 9901 was filed with the NAO on November 10, 1999, by the Association of Flight Attendants and the Association of Flight Attendants of Mexico, ASSA. The NAO accepted this submission for review on January 7, 2000. Review of this submission is intended to further the objectives of the North American Treaty on Labor Cooperation as set out in Article 1 of that document.
Which includes improving working conditions and working standards in each party's territory, promoting to the maximum extent possible the labor principles set out in Annex 1 of the agreement; among them, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, and promoting compliance with and effective enforcement by each party of its labor laws, and fostering transparency in the administration of labor laws.
This submission raises issues of freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively, minimum labor standards and occupational safety and health conditions at the independently owned Mexican airline Executive Air Transport, Incorporated, TAESA.
The submission alleges that the Mexican government has failed to fulfill its obligations with respect to Articles 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 of the agreement, as well as labor principles set out in Annex 1. The submission also alleges that the Mexican government has failed to enforce the employer's obligations to comply with requirements mandated under the federal labor law.
The specific provisions of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation at issue includes Article 2's requirement to ensure high labor standards, Article 3's requirement to effectively enforce its labor laws, Article 4 to ensure access to enforcement of labor laws, and Article 5 to ensure that labor proceedings are fair, equitable and transparent, and to ensure that labor tribunals are impartial and independent in their actions.
Moreover, the issues raised in this submission, if substantiated, would indicate practices inconsistent with the preamble of the NAALC which commits the parties to the protection and the enforcement of basic worker rights as well as the degree of labor principles in Annex 1. Specifically, the principles committing the parties to protection of freedom of association and the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses. A public report will be issued at the end of the NAO review process.
The objective in the NAO's hearing today is to gather information to assist the NAO to better understand the public report on the Governor of Mexico's promotion of and compliance with labor laws and appropriate government action. The purpose of this hearing is not to adjudicate individual rights and, therefore, is not an adversarial proceeding. As such, the rules of evidence are not in effect and there will be no direct or cross-examination of witnesses.
The hearing format is simply used as a means of providing the public an opportunity to present information relevant to our review of this submission. I will be the only person questioning witnesses here today. In accordance with the procedures established by the National Administrative Office, witnesses file timely requests to testify and provide the NAO with summaries or outlines of their testimony. I will permit 10-minute presentations by each witness unless I deem it appropriate to extend the time. And I know that has been done in a couple of instances.
These oral presentations and written statements will be entered into the record and will be considered by the NAO in the formulation of its public report. Pursuant to the NAO's procedural guidelines, the NAO will file this submission and it will become part of the hearing record and documents therein will be available to the public upon request.
I will call recesses when I think it is appropriate, most likely midway through the morning session and at a lunch break. I ask that you cooperate with the times that I announce and be back in your seats when the hearing is ready to resume after the recess. Should any of you experience trouble with your interpretation receivers, please tell a technician or one of my support staff, and then we will get you another one. Also, to make life easier for the interpreters and to allow for accurate transcription of the proceedings, I ask you to please speak clearly and reasonably slow.
We're now ready to proceed with the first panel. The first panel includes Patricia Friend, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants; Alejandra Barrales, general secretary of the Association of Flight Attendants of Mexico. I understand also they are joined by Jose Luis Mendoza Garcia, attorney for the flight attendants of Mexico; and Lance Compa. I ask everyone here today if they would just please identify themselves before they speak for transcription purposes.
MS. FRIEND: Good morning. My name is Pat Friend, and I am the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO. We represent nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 26 U.S. carriers. I am pleased to participate in this hearing before the U.S. National Administrative Office which was set up in accord with Article 16-3 of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation.
With me this morning is Alejandra Barrales, general secretary of the Mexican Union of Flight Attendants. She joined me in submitting the petition to NAALC. She is also one of the leading reform leaders in Mexico and serves as general secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions of Goods and Services Enterprises, otherwise known as CASETS. She is also a vice president of the National Union of Workers, the UNT.
I want to thank you for reviewing our submission and for holding this hearing which is an important step in fulfilling one of the objectives of the NAALC to foster transparency in the administration of labor laws. Putting an international spotlight on worker's rights violations so that governments can remedy them and take steps to prevent them is more important than ever. It is of special importance for flight attendants many of whom are in the international transportation field.
We have joined our counterpart in Union Mexico to file this submission because we are deeply troubled by what appear to be violations of their right to freedom of association, and their right to bargain collectively, violations of minimum labor standards and violations of the health and safety laws. In each of these areas we believe that Mexican labor law authorities did not fulfill their obligation under the NAALC to promote compliance with and effectively enforce its labor law.
As you know, freedom of association and collective bargaining are the first two labor principles set forth in the NAALC. Freedom of association is defined as a right of workers exercised freely and without impediment to establish and join organizations of their own choosing. But when the flight attendants of TAESA sought to exercise this right in an election held one year ago, their efforts took place in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and coercion created by TAESA management and abetted by the labor law authorities.
The flight attendants of TAESA were denied the right to an organization of their own choosing. They were forced into an election allowing all TAESA employees: pilots, mechanics, ramp service personnel, ticket agents and others to vote in the election.
The voting was opened up to this larger group for the express purpose of denying the flight attendants their rights. Instead of a secret ballot election, the flight attendants were forced to vote openly, orally, one by one in a gauntlet style proceeding. TALC (ph.) company officials stood just a few feet away taking notes on who voted for ASSA.
Within a very short period of time after the election was concluded, the flight attendants who had voted openly for ASSA were fired by TAESA. Today we'll hear directly from the flight attendants who were victimized by the violation of their rights, so I will allow them to share with you further details.
Why did the flight attendants of TAESA even try to form an independent union in the face of this type of attitude by management? This brings us to the other elements of our submission which again I will describe only briefly since you can hear it directly from ASSA members and leaders at this meeting.
TAESA management forced flight attendants to work in excess, sometimes far in excess of the monthly maximum of 90 hours of flying time set by Mexican law. And TAESA failed to pay overtime for this work. The company also failed to make timely and complete payments of payroll tax deductions for flight attendants health insurance, pensions and housing funds. In all of these matters, we believe that labor law authorities failed to effectively enforce the Mexican law.
TAESA also violated legal requirements to provide emergency training to flight attendants. And they failed to maintain both their aircraft and passenger cabin areas, the work place of flight attendants, in safe and hygienic conditions. Again, laws and regulations were not effectively enforced. I do not want to take much more time in this hearing since time is limited and we have guests who have traveled thousands of miles to tell their story.
But before ending, I do want to make one important point. AFA did not undertake this petition only to accuse Mexico of certain failures. We have our own problems here in the United States and we might benefit from international scrutiny. We have observed many cases of interference by airline company management and U.S. flight attendants' exercise of their right to freedom of association.
Attempts to coerce, intimidate and improperly influence are common. AFA is currently involved and in a campaign to give the 20,000 flight attendants at Delta Airlines the opportunity to vote on whether or not they would like to gain a voice in their work place. The management at Delta Airlines has launched an extraordinary effort to deny the flight attendants that right. They are holding meetings where attendance is mandatory and the subject is union bashing. Anti-union videos have been mailed to flight attendant homes, one-on-one interrogations are conducted by supervisors, and threats are made to withhold benefits such as increased pay or changes in work rules or bonuses. And finally, when all else fails, visible union supporters are threatened with discipline and even with termination.
It is also well known that AFA is very concerned about the exclusion of U.S. flight attendants from coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Instead, we are saddled with a separate inadequate regulatory system. I believe this may raise the issue of whether the United States is fulfilling labor principle 9 of the NAALC on the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, at least with respect to flight attendants.
As part of our efforts to obtain work place safety and health protection for U.S. flight attendants, we intend to take a serious look at the United States obligation under this labor principle. And perhaps one day AFA and ASSA will join forces again, this time to ask Mexico to review the United States' record in protecting flight attendants freedom of association and safety and health conditions.
But for now, the issue is what the flight attendants endured at TAESA. Of course, the matter is complicated by the company's bankruptcy. But the bankruptcy does not change the fact that many flight attendants were victimized by violations of their rights without effective redress by labor law authorities. We hope that this hearing and the NAO review process will contribute to whatever concrete remedies might be forthcoming to these victims.
But more than that, perhaps this process can ensure that if any new airlines arise from the ashes that is TAESA, flight attendants freedom of association and right to collective bargaining protection under minimum labor standards and occupational safety and health norms will be honored by the management and effectively enforced by labor law authority. Thank you.
MR. KARESH: Thank you, Ms. Friend. Ms. Barrales?
MS. BARRALES: Buenos dias. I am Alejandra Barrales, and I am the secretary general of ASSA. And my friend, Pat Friend, also talked about what my position is. I want to begin by thanking you for this opportunity to be here and talk about Mexican flight attendants and their situation here at this National Administrative Office here in the United States. We, under Article 16 of NAALC, are here for this reason.
The organization that I represent, as you most likely already know, has worked in our country for the principles of free association and protection of a right to organize which are found in the NAALC. And we want to make these a reality for Mexican workers.
Sadly enough, for over the last two and a half years, in spite of all the work that we have been doing, we have been unable to do this. And for more than a year we have been requesting the aid of colleagues in the United States. We have been asking Pat Friend to help us and try to make it possible for our union rights to be respected in Mexico.
This fight has been unsuccessful so far. Our right to freely organize has been repeatedly denied by local authorities in our country. We see very soon the possibility of having our professional unions disbanded, including all professional association. And our laws in Mexico state that our unions have the same rights as industrial unions or business unions.
We are concerned that the laws are not being fulfilled in this regard and they do not allow people like ourselves in our profession to take advantage of our rights. A clear example of this is what has happened with TAESA. We have run into various problems and I want to mention the problems that we have had. And I will start with the legal problems or legal road blocks we have run into.
Now, in the beginning when we presented our legal action before the Mexican authorities to try and protect the flight attendants working for TAESA, because we had received a request from them to do this, when we presented this legal action the law stipulates that the federal organization should establish an audience in 24 hours. However, this stretched out to 48 days. And in order for us to hold this audience, or this hearing, excuse me, after the 48 days in spite of the legal framework that was established our complaint was refused.
They refused to hear our complaint because it was not legitimate, that we did not have the legal status that we needed to present a complaint. We were also told that we did not have this because we were a professional union and that we had to go to a industry union. We insisted.
And when we submitted further legal action, we presented the necessary proof in spite of the fact that we are a professional union, we have the same rights as the other unions but that are established by Mexican labor legislation. We won when we took this to court. And the court ordered the Federal Arbitration Office to hear our complaint that we did have a legal status necessary. And we continued on.
The hearing that we were finally able to hold after 47 days, they announced that our association did not have the legal right to do this and basically they just filed our complaint. So, once again, we had to go to court and during the second case we were obviously seeking the possibility of having our case heard again. This was done in 1999, this was a year and a half later after our complaint was filed.
Now, after this year and a half, we were given the possibility of having our case heard again. What we had to do was hold a union vote to decide whether we wanted to continue with the case or not. But what they did is they brought in the pilots and grounds crew as well and they were not going to vote with us, obviously.
Now, the next step by the Arbitration Office was to take into account this voting that took place. The courts said that this vote should be thrown out. But I should note that when you take into account just the votes of the flight attendants, we won the vote 99 to 42. This is important for us. And we think it is incorrect that more than the flight attendants were able to vote in this decision, as well as flight attendants that had just barely joined.
After this vote, the Federal Arbitration Office issued its sentence in which it said that the vote had been won by the other union which allowed the inclusion of votes of workers who are not flight attendants. And another thing that should be noted is that we tried to separate the voters between flight attendants and those who are not, but this was not accepted.
We then went to the courts for the third time because our legal framework establishes that during a case we have the right to present our evidence, but this was not allowed in our case. And this being the case, we went on and took legal action again before the courts. Recently this case, the 19th of January, the ruling was issued and it was issued in our favor. And it said that we are correct in showing that we should have the right to vote as flight attendants.
However, this goes against all of the arbitration decisions in our case. Notwithstanding, we think that this latest ruling from the courts will support us. In spite of the fact that they say that we lost the vote. Now this is the situation that we are in, and we are trying to show that we are not willing to let them violate our rights to organize. So, if we have to, we will go to a force legal action. And we want to make sure that the rights of flight attendants are respected so that they can create their own unions.
We think it is also important to note that given the situation and given that legally our demands were not respected, our organization has helped the flight attendants that work for TAESA and we have organized different strikes and protests to try and help different passengers and authorities understand our case. We have handed out flyers in the airports of Mexico, we have done it at least five or six airports. We did this during a three month period letting the passengers know about the violations of our rights, and letting them know about the security risks and the safety risks that they were running by flying with TAESA. And we were intimidated as were the flight attendants that worked for TAESA. And we were also taken to court for colluding.
And, sadly enough, there was a airplane crash in November of last year at TAESA, and this showed sadly enough that we were right. And once we expressed our problems and our own conformity with the situation, again 15 days after the vote 100 flight attendants were fired at TAESA. And the 99 that voted in favor of creating their union were all fired from TAESA. Do you understand that the firing of a worker is the worst decision that can be taken against that worker because it is an affront to his dignity and also goes against that workers needs.
Nevertheless, I think that my fellow flight attendants from TAESA were very courageous in their decision to fight this. We, the 3,000 flight attendants that are members of ASSA, we have been supporting them economically and for almost a year we have continued to help them in their legal fight because we would not like them to give up the right that they have to join the labor union of their choice. So this brings us up to March. But as we have said, we cannot continue to support them economically or financially. This situation cannot continue.
That being said, we have talked with them and they are willing to continue work doing all those necessary so that their rights are respected. And I can say that we are not doing anything against anyone, all we are doing is making sure that our rights are honored. And we want to make sure that our country is willing to respect internationally our rights. And our country has said that it would in the NAALC, which is the agreement that allows us to even be here today.
This situation of the flight attendants at TAESA is getting worse because TAESA has gone bankrupt. And we are still organizing ASSA and we feel it is important to let you know that 70 percent of the airlines do not have a legitimate union. 70 percent of the different airlines have a similar situation to that of TAESA. The workers are forced to join a union that is brought in before the workers are hired. Therefore, it is important to defend our stability as unionized workers.
Moreover, we as flight attendants decided to form our own professional union, and this should not be any different from any other profession, so that we can defend our interests. That is why in spite of what has happened with TAESA, we think it is important to continue defending our rights and continue to have workers rights respected independently of what their profession is. Thank you.
MR. KARESH: Thank you very much, Ms. Barrales. Before we proceed, let me just ask if Lic. Mendoza or Mr. Lance Campo has anything that they want to add to the statements at this time?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: (not translated into English).
MR. KARESH: We have a problem.
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: What I want to make clear is that we know that with regard to the problem that we're facing until now we've only seen procedural matters. Whether the active legitimization goes forward or whether it doesn't, whether we received or didn't receive proof of objections it has to be submitted, documentary evidence, but we haven't studied the substance of the matter.
We consider that when the substance is studied that we will receive a favorable verdict indicating that a professional union doesn't have the right to demand from an industrial union the recision of a part of that contract. In our petitions we have indicated that the jurisprudence of Mexican courts have established that the bureaucratic workers do have the right under Article 23, subsection 8, to request that professional unions be allowed to be formed.
And in the case of other workers, the 9th subsection is the same as the 10th subsection that I mentioned. And it allows the freedom of labor unions. We feel that since this deals with standards that are the same, the result that we'd like to find in the courts is a favorable resolution to our being able to form a union, specifically the workers of TAESA and flight attendants. This is all I would like to add.
MR. COMPA: I would like to add, and this is only for comparative purposes. I'm Lance Compa -- C-o-m-p-a -- counsel to the Association of Flight Attendants in this matter.
For comparative background and nothing more, because clearly we're not talking about any application of U.S. law. But we in our own labor law confront this question of what is known in our law as the "craft severance issue." That is what our colleagues have referred as what we call a "craft union." That is a union based on the specialty of the workers that occupy that craft.
And this issue has arisen under U.S. law. And the criteria that are applied under our law appear to be similar to what our colleagues have spoken about. That is the opportunity does exist for a craft union to separate itself from a larger established unit. And the issues that are looked at include the history and the pattern and the practice of collective bargaining in the industry as a whole. And, clearly, in the airline industry it is customary for flight attendants to have their own union. As well as for pilots to have their own union, and then for ground personnel to have a union.
Sometimes they might be the same overall organization, but the bargaining units are usually distinct. They also -- another consideration is the degree of integration of production or integration of the operation. And, again, it's clear that the work of the flight attendants in the cabin during flights is sufficiently distinct from the work of the pilots flying the plane or the work of the ground crews, that it does have its own particular needs.
There is also a question of the qualifications of the union that is seeking to represent the craft group. And in this situation, clearly, the Association of Flight Attendants of Mexico, ASSA, has established itself as a very effective organization representing flight attendants. So just by way of background and comparison, it's worth keeping in mind that this issue of separating out a craft is one that arises in basically in all countries labor law systems and all countries have developed reasonable ways of dealing with it. And it appears that the flight attendants of Mexico have run into unreasonable obstacles to exercising this right of association.
MR. KARESH: Thank you, Mr. Compa. I'm going to ask several questions. And what I'd like to do is start with some general questions and then move to some other specifics and some of the things that you've already mentioned. If I don't direct the question to one person in particular, then obviously whoever feels more comfortable answering it, or if several people need to answer or add to it, that's fine.
Ms. Friend, let me just ask you first. Were you a personal witness to the election or any of these activities in Mexico at TAESA?
MS. FRIEND: No, I was not. We did send a staff member as an international observer, but I did not attend.
MR. KARESH: Okay. Thank you. I think you referred in your testimony about the sense of unfair and undemocratic procedures during the election, the idea that it was not a secret ballot, and that workers have to vote openly in front of not only other union members but the employer and perhaps unions who they are voting against.
What I'd like you to comment on, if possible, is the sense of this identification of how the workers vote. And your view as to whether this procedure is illegal under Mexican law. And whether or not it is, whether it's in violation or in contradiction to ILO Convention 87.
MS. FRIEND: I would probably defer to Senior Mendoza on the Mexican law question. But my understanding of what happened is that the sole purpose of having people vote that way was for purposes of intimidation. That they were, as I described it, it was a gauntlet type situation with the union that was being challenged by ASSA as well as management standing literally taking names as people voted. That is a clear intimidation tactic, and we believe that it clearly violates people's rights to freely choose when you create a situation that is so intimidating that they are fearful to make that free choice. And, as I said, on the question of Mexican law, I would defer --
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: I'd like to briefly explain how the voting tallying is done is my country, not just for the case of TAESA but for all the unions that are involved in collective bargaining. First of all, the union's participating, the union that wants to have this collective bargaining feels very restricted.
In the case of TAESA they only allowed four of us to be there while the management had everyone there that they felt that they wanted to have there. And the other union, they let them intimidate the workers, pressure the workers.
In the case of TAESA, the tally, the vote was taken as follows. Behind the voting table, they had high chairs where the company's manager was seated with the management team looking how and observing how each worker's vote was going. At the same time they had another little booth where the workers would first go in and they were asked who they were voting for.
There they could tell if they were going to vote for ASSA, they would be fired. It didn't matter whether it was a flight attendant, or a ground crew, we even have a pilot who voted for ASSA, and a ground crew member who voted for ASSA in our records. But to ask a worker ahead of time how they were going to vote to intimidate them -- when we told the notary publics who were present there who were certifying the vote, when we told them what was going on and we asked them to suspend this proceeding, they didn't accept it and the intimidation continued to the end.
In conclusion, our procedure is unfair because it's not a secret ballot and it allows for pressure on the part of management and the other unions against the workers.
MR. KARESH: Thank you, Senor Mendoza. Let me just go back to my question though and see if anyone has an opinion on it. One is the process under Mexican law, whether open voting is illegal under Mexican law. And, secondly, whether there is any view with regard to whether that process is in violation of ILO Convention 87.
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: It does not stipulate how the voting takes place. The law specifically stipulates that the voting may be done by voters who are not confidential employees and that they must know the contents of the vote. And, consequently, the way the vote is taken there can be pressure against the workers. From my point of view, Mexican law is unfair because it doesn't permit equality and it allows for intimidation by having workers threatened that they will be fired.
MR. COMPA: It's also my understanding, as my colleague stated, that the law does not sate specifically whether secret ballot or open oral ballot shall be the method. In fact, I think legally, technically either can be used. It's optional as to how the particular labor board that's conducting the election wants to proceed. There have been other examples of secret ballots elections in similar situations. So it's not technically illegal. And perhaps there was a time in the past when workers felt confident about making a choice orally in front of the authorities.
But it's clear that over time and especially now in a situation like this where a union is challenging a union that is tied to the firm and tied to the government, the corporate structure suffers a terrific disadvantage and the climate of fear and coercion is so palpable that it removes any possibility of a un-coerced free choice.
I think that would also be the reach of ILO Convention 87 which, again, doesn't specifically say anything about secret ballot elections versus another method, but does emphasize that the free choice of the workers to form and join an organization of their own choosing is the relevant language of ILO Convention 87.
And I think it's equally clear that in a situation like this where a climate of fear and intimidation and coercion is so evident that the choice is not a free choice. So I think this would also, under the circumstances, contravene the international norms established in ILO Convention 87.
MR. KARESH: Focusing on this question about the actual balloting and the fact that it was open, was there any kind of process, do you feel, for you to request a secret ballot or did you, in fact, use that process? Did you request any authorities that the ballot be secret?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: In Mexico, it's tallying is open, voting is open. Where we have secret voting it is agreed by the unions with the intervention of the authorities and this is usually in a case where there may be a strike that is affecting the industry. And there an administrative decision, not a legal decision, an administrative decision is taken to have secret ballot. That's the only case we have. Legally in Mexico, it's always open.
MR. KARESH: Lance, let me ask you, we're talking about 87 and whether it has any language about secret ballots or anything of that sort. Are you aware of anything from the International Labor Organization that talks about the appropriateness of secret balloting in these types of elections?
MR. COMPA: I think the Committee on Freedom of association has from time to time expressed a preference or stated that secret ballots are presumed to be the better method. But I don't think it lays it out as an absolute requirement. As you know and as I'm sure many others know, there are other methods of establishing the majority sentiment of workers, including by signing authorization cards and possibly others. But I think that the notion of a secret ballot has a certain preference or legitimacy but it's not set forth as the exclusive means of establishing majority sentiment.
MR. KARESH: I want to delve into this issue a little bit further, but let me ask some other general questions first just so I can have a complete understanding of ASSA as an organization. Can you give me an idea of how big ASSA is, how many members it has and what other workers at what other companies it represents?
MS. BARRALES: We're a union that was established 39 years ago. We have 3,000 workers. 85 percent of us are women. And we have the contract for the two largest airlines in our country. We have a flight attendant's from Aeromexico, Mexicana, and Aeromal. Aeromal is an airline that joined us about a year and a half ago.
When I point out that 70 percent of airlines in my country, as far as flight attendants, are going through similar situations of that at TAESA is because other airlines such as Aerolitoral, Aerocaribe, Allegro, et cetera, that are quite a few of them, they all have flight attendants that are situated such as TAESA. I mean, they are obliged, they are forced to join unions that aren't their own professional unions, that's the case. I don't know if there is any other information that I can give you about our organization.
MR. KARESH: Thank you. As far as Aeromar, can you tell me who you represent there? Is it just flight attendants and how were you able to represent them and who represents the other workers at those companies?
MS. BARRALES: Yes. In these cases our union, we can be representatives of all the airlines that are part of our organization. We represent -- I particularly am a flight attendant at Aeromexico but we can have Mexicana, Aeromar flight attendants. And the decisions, we only have workers that are flight attendants. These three airlines have three different unions. They have the pilot's union, the ground crew units, and flight attendants, in this case ASSA. So the negotiations as far as flight attendants are directly with us.
And for any decisions to be taken, we have delegates, we call them "delegates." And in the case of Aeromexico, the decisions are taken exclusively by Aeromexico workers supported by the organization, but only the Aeromexico flight attendants. The same case with Mexicana, only the flight attendants of Mexicana take decisions with the support of the organization, but only their flight attendants. That's how our organization operates.
MR. KARESH: And how were you able to gain bargaining rights for those workers and create the professional union there? I mean did you run into the same kind of problems and how did you deal with this question about professional union, craft union and industrial union, which is my understanding of what you were talking about, the problems you ran into at TAESA. How did you work around that at the other airlines and be able to separate the pilots and flight attendants and the ground crew?
MS. BARRALES: Well, in our case talking with Aeromexico and Mexicana flight attendants, in this case the airlines had respected the decision of the workers. They've understood that we want productive airlines where the workers are genuinely represented. That it effects the kind of service the types of service that we are offering and it will allow the workers to decide to take our own decisions, own labor decisions. They don't participate in the decisonmaking by unions where they work, they allow us to vote, they give us autonomy, at least in the case with these airlines with which we have contracts.
In the other cases, the participation of the companies, the participation of authorities, labor authorities, is quite evident. They don't allow them to take decisions. They deal with the law in a partial way, favoring one or the other of the parties. And I'd like to say that this could be a fight, struggles between two union. But, in fact, it isn't the case, fights between two unions. I can say that the only union that genuinely represents flight attendants in Mexico is my organization. We've had collective bargaining contracts negotiations with Aeromexico and Mexicana since we started 39 years ago. We have been working with them for 39 years.
MR. KARESH: When you first began outstanding represent those flight attendants, was there another union there, a company-wide union there already that then you had to come and say, "We want to represent just the flight attendants." Or did you start when the airline started before there was a union representing anyone else, any of the other workers?
MS. BARRALES: These were different cases, they were different. In the case of Aeromexico, when the flight attendants union existed, a year before they had only had the pilot's union. Then the flight attendants union and then the ground crew union. In the case of Aeromar, which was formed a year and a half ago, we had the flight attendant's union because they decided to organize independently. They came to us and that's when we took it upon ourselves to represent them.
In the case of Aeromexico, there were other specialized union. Aeromar didn't have a specialized professional union. And these are different cases. In the case of Aerocaribe, which is also trying to unionize, has been trying to unionize with us over the past year and a half, they had an "industrial contract", as it's called, a case similar to TAESA. And since the pilots and flight attendants wanted to organize, they were able to go forward with the pilots, who now have the representation they were looking for. They were the pilot's union. and the flight attendants now are in a union with the ground crew workers. They haven't been allowed to have, to join us, to affiliate with us.
MR. KARESH: Are you aware of any cases in your union where you had company-wide union representing everybody and you had to petition the labor authorities to try to represent the flight attendants as a class? You didn't run into that situation in any of the other airlines, is that correct, that this situation has been unique at TAESA?
MS. BARRALES: We have some airlines where all the workers are under one union, such as is the case with TAESA. It's also the case with Allegro, Aerocalifornia. I can name five or six of airline companies. But we also have cases like that of Aerolitoral which is very similar to that of Aerocaribe which has a professional union for pilots, in the case of Aerolitoral and Aerocaribe. And the other workers, ground crew, are in the same union.
In effect, almost all of these airlines have started with an industrial union and then they've been able to separate. In the case of pilots, they were the ones that had been able to make progress and have their own union. The other workers usually remain under the umbrella contract, and that's what we're trying to do to get them to receive the same rates the pilots have received.
MR. KARESH: Are you aware of any cases in your union or in any other union in the airline industry where they attempted to come in and represent a certain class or craft workers and they had to do something similar to what you had to do in TAESA? Where they may have had to go and petition the Labor Board, and get a decision against them, and may have had to file an en parle (ph.) and get a judicial decision on the issue about having a professional union or the craft union?
Are you aware of any other situations of that sort where there may have been judicial decisions or en parle is decided with regard to that issue?
MS. BARRALES: No, we're unaware of any, certainly not any that's been recorded.
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: There are two cases where the baker's union wanted to separate, but it was denied because it was affecting the industrial. There was also the teacher's in a swimming academy that wanted to organize, but they were denied. We studied this in the fourth legal action that we presented. We can leave you this legal action where we include these two instances where the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration decided. And it shows why there is no reason in Mexican law for these, there is no foundation for these.
MR. KARESH: Thank you, that would be helpful. Can we talk a little bit about the original decision and why ASSA decided to try to organize at TAESA and what the fundamental issues were? I know you touched on them a bit in your statement, but give us a little more specifics about what the issues were and how you went about trying to organize?
MS. BARRALES: There are several colleagues from TAESA here. Some of them were part of the 99 that were fired as a result of their vote. And we also have a colleague who we called "active". I mean they are all out of work now, but they can give us details of -- all the reasons and motives. I'd simply like to comment on how these colleagues came to us.
More than two years ago they approached our group asking for our support because they didn't have any basic guarantees as workers, especially as concerns security, training information tools, manuals, certain other things. They would also tell us about these long working days that they had to put in without the support of any organization to be able to defend their rights. They expressed their desire to be a part of our organization.
And one of the basic points was relating to their work days, to their shifts. They were very concerned by the very tiring work days they had to put in. And I think this was one of the main reasons that forced them to seek a form of organizing, a different form of organization. I think a worldwide tendency today is that notwithstanding the fact that workers seek greater organization with other workers, I think the tendency worldwide in airline employees it continues to be a specialized grouping. We continue to want to organize with workers who know, understand, our needs, our requirements. And I think this is a tendency worldwide. We see this, at least the information that we receive would indicate this.
MR. COMPA: Could you walk us through the process a little bit? In other words, what was required when you first petitioned for an election and for the representation? And I know you talked a little bit about some of the local authorities decisions and some of the en parle decisions. But would you just kind of walk me through again from the beginning when you petitioned and what the response was as far as any hearings that were held and when the election was held, and then what the response was with your objectives to the election and the decisions from the courts and the board? Thank you.
(Ms. Barrales and Mr. Mendoza Garcia confer.)
MS. BARRALES: I am asking for some support from our lawyer just to help me a little bit with the time because this took place about two and half years ago. And I would like to make sure that I'm giving you right information. When we received the request to organize, we presented our request for contract. When we presented this, our labor legislation forces the Federal Board to organize or to give an answer within 24 hours, or establish at least a meeting with us so that they can tell us how our request is going.
And we received an answer, instead of 24 hours later, we received it 47 days later. And we received an answer 47 days later that we were not a legitimate legal organization to present this request. We could not therefore be a professional union. That is when we went to (translation transmission breaking up) for legal action. And we based our complaints on the legislation that was established. And this was done to show how Mexican labor legislation --
(Pause for technical problems here.)
MR. KARESH: Is there a problem with the equipment? Perhaps this is a good time to take a 15 minute break and then we can come back at 10:40 and resume. Sorry.
(Off the record.)
MR. KARESH: I think what I'm going to do, and I know I had asked you a very general question and the thought was to try to walk through all the process and the legal process that took place. But you were kind enough to provide us with copies of all the en parle decisions. And I think the better use of time may be for us to review all of those, and then if we have further questions, at some point we can try to follow up at that time. So maybe the better thing is to move and focus on some other issues. And if we have time, we can come back to that later.
What I wanted to ask you was a few questions about the workers who were dismissed, and what the current status of those cases are. How many of those 100 workers filed complaints and what the current status of those complaints are?
MS. BARRALES: Right after the voting took place at TAESA -- this took place a year ago yesterday -- about 15 days after the voting, more or less two weeks, we began to receive different groups of workers. The first five arrived. And then another five arrived the next day, and the next day six workers. And that's how it continued on until we finally had 97 workers who had been fired. And, according to their own testimony, the company called them and told them that they were no longer needed. In very few cases did they tell them openly the reason for their firing, which was the way they had voted. And they basically were told that their services were no longer needed because the company was going to restructure.
For us and for them it was obvious that the reason for their firing was having voted in favor of a professional union, a different professional union than the one the company was using. So we did what would could to try and keep these people involved in the movement. We organized them, and we organized so that we could support them financially so that they could continue with their complaints to try and convince TAESA to offer some kind of indemnization. And we wanted to make sure that they could continue to defend their rights for free association.
And that is why I said that this is a very valiant fight on the part of those who were fired because it is very difficult to remain unemployed. And they have received the financial support that we have given them. We have given them quite a bit, but it is nothing compared to what they would earn if they were employed. And, currently, they continue to work with us and we are trying to solve this whole situation.
MR. KARESH: So I take it the workers who filed complaints with the authorities about the improper dismissal, that those are still pending and the workers and no workers have received decisions on that issue, is that correct?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: All of the workers did issue individual complaints before the Arbitration Board. And they were demanding receiving indemnization and their jobs back. And, supposedly, there was an exclusion clause because in the contract that was used there was a clause that establishes that the workers that want to belong to the union can be fired from the company without the company being responsible. This, obviously, is an incorrect argument because Mexican jurisprudence has established in the cases of firings that this exclusion clause cannot be included. Therefore, we are expecting favorable rulings for the workers so that they can get their jobs back. What we are facing right now is what is the situation that should happen now that TAESA has gone bankrupt? Now, the bankruptcy of this company was issued by a civil judge that works within the Mexican civil judicial system. And they have to decide whether the collective or individual labor relations exist. And in this situation it was established that these relations did exist.
Now, the procedure that should be followed, based on the Mexican labor laws, is that that contract should be approved by the Federal Arbitration Board and this board should receive the bankruptcy notice and let all of the workers know so that they can take part in the case. And then the Arbitration Board can rule on the collective bargaining agreements.
Now, given the fact that these workers no longer belonged to the original labor union, then they are not going to receive their indemnization. However, when it comes time to put into effect the ruling in favor of returning these workers back to their jobs, then they should receive three months for severance pay, plus they should receive the money that they would have received if they had been working during that time. Now, the minimum conditions establishes of Article 113 of the Mexican labor legislation that these workers should receive at least double the pay that they would have received during a specified time.
MR. KARESH: When the workers were brought in and were dismissed, I don't know if they were brought into an office, or called on the phone, or how that worked, but were any of them told at that time that they were being dismissed and having the exclusion clause applied to them as a reason for that dismissal?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: No. The workers were never told. Mexican labor legislation establishes the responsibility of the business to notify in written form why a person has been fired. The workers did not receive any information telling them that the exclusion was being invoked. There were many other arguments for those that they were fired, but the exclusion clause was not included in them.
MR. KARESH: Did any workers receive any written notice of any reason, or was it all oral?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: All oral. It was all oral.
MR. KARESH: These workers who they are now saying the exclusion clause applies, were they members of the other company-wide union, either before the election or after the election?
MS. BARRALES: As far as we know, all of the workers of TAESA, all of the pilots, ground workers, and flight attendants all belonged to the Confederation of Mexican Workers labor union.
MR. KARESH: And as far as union dues, was that taken out of their pay check automatically and given to the union, or how does that dues payment work?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: No, it was not taken out of their checks.
MR. TEJEDA: I would like to explain what it means to be a -- my name is Carlos Alvarez Tejeda, and I was a flight attendant for TAESA. Thank you. To answer your question, we never had any dues taken out of our checks. We were never told that we were going to be members of a union and be part of the CTM. We never received any information about this union inside our company.
MR. KARESH: Thank you. Part of the submission involves minimum employment standards (translation in Spanish only available here) --
MS. BARRALES: We do have information that we can provide for this.
MR. KARESH: And the sense of lack of overtime and failure to pay Sunday or holiday time pay, is there also documentation of those failures?
MS. BARRALES: (Nodding affirmatively -- no English translation available here.)
MR. KARESH: Is that something being provided today or --
MS. BARRALES: (Nodding affirmatively.)
MR. KARESH: Today, okay. We can do that, we'll enter that into the record when we receive it.
MR. KARESH: Let me just ask you a few questions about the safety and health conditions. Are you aware of inspections that may have been done by labor authorities and were any of the workers or union representatives, that you are aware of, present at that time? I understand that ASSA isn't the bargaining representative, that your union may not have been present there. But whether you have any knowledge about whether, in your discussions with other workers, that they were aware of labor inspectors that came. And whether their union representatives at the time had the opportunity to do any of those inspections with the inspectors who came?
MS. BARRALES: We found out about the unsafe conditions from the testimony of our colleagues. And that was where we went to the aviation authorities to complain in Mexico. We presented their testimonies, we presented documents that show the complaints the that flight attendants have made against the company, mentioning the safety violations.
The Aviation Authority told us that they did take note of this and that they would work to resolve these problems. However, there was really no action taken as a consequence of these complaints. My companions that work in TAESA did tell us that there were some inspections by the National Aviation Authority, but nothing really ever happened.
MR. KARESH: Can you provide us, or do we already have copies of these safety and health complaints?
MS. BARRALES: Yes. We have them with us today.
MR. KARESH: Do you know which authority in mc, which federal authority has the authority over safety and health inside the airplane in Mexico?
MS. BARRALES: Yes. It is the general direction of Civil Aviation and this is the agency that we were informing about these violations.
MR. KARESH: To your knowledge does Nesitapaesa (ph.) have any authority, as far as safety and health conditions inside the airplane?
MS. BARRALES: There is a clause in our labor legislation that does require any company, and this includes the airlines, that they have to provide safe and healthy conditions. Based on this commission, the Secretary of Labor has the responsibility to make sure that this commission knows what is going on and is producing reports, but it is responsible to the Secretary of Labor.
MR. KARESH: Are you aware of any findings or reports that the inspecting authorities may have issued with regard to safety and health at TAESA, and particularly with regard to the safety and health conditions inside the airplane that are mentioned in the submission?
MS. BARRALES: By the Secretary of Labor, or any authority?
MR. KARESH: The Secretary of Labor, civil authorities, any authorities.
MS. BARRALES: No. We only received the information from the complaints of the flight attendants. And based on those complaints and the ones that we presented before the authorities, we learned that there had been some inspections by the Civil Aviation Authority. But nothing really -- they really led to nothing they were just observations that were performed.
MR. KARESH: And so I assume you are also not aware of whether there were any fines or anything of that sort?
MS. BARRALES: My colleague has just reminded me that after the date of the accident in November and much after the TAESA attendants had been complaining about the security aspects, there were some activities that were more far reaching on the part of the Civil Aviation Authority. Nevertheless, there were no drastic actions were taken, not stemming from our complaints.
It was only after the accident that other irregularities, I think in Cancun, were noted and were submitted. And also the one in, the problem here in Chicago where the TAESA had the accident in November. That's when the Civil Aviation Authority decided to stop the airline's activities.
MR. KARESH: In your dealings through your union at the other airlines where you represent flight attendants, are you aware of any other safety and health inspections by either labor authorities or the Civil Aviation Authority authorities at those airlines?
MS. BARRALES: In the airlines that we have representation, there are security issues. And if there is any irregularity, we detect any irregularity, we immediately denounce it and the company does what it can to remedy those irregularities.
MR. KARESH: (delay in transmission here) -- at the Commission Mixta between the workers and the company. Have there been any federal authorities that have been involved in any of those discussions, or did anything that the Mixta worked out come about because of authorities inspections, or anything, that you are aware of?
MS. BARRALES: The authorities can supervise the work of this commission, however, what we've found up to now, what's been found in the airlines hasn't necessitated the participation of the authorities to date, not in the case of Aeromexico, Aeromar, or Mexicana anyway.
MR. KARESH: Another one of the key issues here that has raised is the question of training for flight attendants and other personnel on board the aircraft. Can you just kind of give me a brief overview of what kind of training is received with regard to safety and health and what kind of manuals or other information is provided?
MS. BARRALES: The airline regulations in Mexico stipulate that flight attendants must be trained, certain areas specified of importance for us to know, tests that we have to pass, so that we can guarantee security on board an aircraft. These areas are areas where TAESA flight attendants weren't trained. We constantly complained about this. They were hired, they were given a license which credited them as flight attendants as if they had received this training and they were immediately put on the plane. We, our colleagues, gave us all this information. And we proved that they were flying in planes that they didn't even know on many occasions how the doors operated, or internal changes in the equipment. For those of us that are involved in this activity, that's a dangerous risk. We need to know the changes in the equipment and all of this. The airlines, the Mexican airlines have the obligation to train attendants in these aspects, and this was never the case with TAESA.
At the same time, there is a manual which establishes all the procedures and emergency procedures that in the event of an accident must be undertaken. And during this training we study this manual. In TAESA we didn't even have this training. And the manuals, there were a few documents but they weren't updated, they weren't up to date, and they didn't reflect the type of planes that were being used, or the crew. There were manuals that were there because they had to be there but they didn't talk about the reality that we were living within in TAESA.
MR. KARESH: Are you aware of the Commission Mixta at TAESA in operation?
MS. BARRALES: The flight attendants informed me that quite a while ago the company tried to generate a mixed commission. There was a female doctor, they can give you her name, who tried to do her work. And when she showed the company that there were shortcomings she didn't last more than a month, they fired her, this doctor.
And they brought another doctor who they put on this commission. There weren't too many reports and the commission ceased operating. I don't know whether on paper the commission continued, but my colleagues tell me that in practice the commission stopped operating.
MR. KARESH: Is it your understanding that the law requires there to be a Commission Mixta in operation?
MS. BARRALES: Yes. It's in the labor law.
MR. KARESH: I have just one more question, just to make sure I understand. We've seen a lot of different numbers with regard to the vote, and I think this morning you said it was 99 to 42. That's with regard to the flight attendants?
MS. BARRALES: Uh-huh [nodding affirmatively] only flight attendants. The other number -- I'd like to refer to you the overall figure. The voting wasn't just flight attendants but there were other workers involved. 1,442 workers voted against ASSA. 1, 442 against ASSA, 102 workers voted in favor of ASSA, and there were 2 abstentions. Of these votes, 99 were flight attendants in favor of ASSA, and 42 were flight attendants in favor of the other union. 99-42 refers only to flight attendants.
MR. KARESH: Do you know what the total number of flight attendants were who would have been eligible to vote?
MS. BARRALES: As far as I know, there were approximately 300 flight attendants at the time. But it's very important to point out that the legal framework in our country stipulates that only those workers hired by the company 15 days before the request for organization can vote. After that petition or claim, TAESA hired many workers so that they could participate in the voting. But, legally, only those workers who had been hired 15 days previous to date of the claim could have voted.
MR. KARESH: And what happened with these other workers who were hired after this time period, were they actually allowed to vote? I thought you had indicated that you indicated that there were workers that were hired after this time period, the 15 days before the request. There were workers hired after that time period, were they actually allowed to vote during the recuenta?
MS. BARRALES: As the gentleman just has pointed out, the company tried to take advantage of the vote to see how all the workers felt within the company. And even though they didn't have the legal right to vote, they asked them who they would want to vote for, if they could. So it was sort of an appeal to get support and to find out which union the workers preferred.
MR. KARESH: Were there flight attendants that were eligible to vote but didn't? Or are there reasons why they didn't vote, that you are aware of, such as that working hours didn't allow them to vote?
MS. BARRALES: Yes, the vote was taken throughout the country in different airports, but a significant number of workers were flying or they were overnighting in different cities. And we knew ahead of time that part of the companies strategy so that there wouldn't be too many flight attendants working, they left a lot of flight attendants in the United States for overnights. They normally would have been overnights, but they stayed here two or three days so that they couldn't be in Mexico on the 22nd of March for the vote.
MR. KARESH: Are there any provisions in Mexican law for the idea of absentee voting or some type of process to make sure that all the workers have the opportunity to vote who may be away from the work site during the time of the vote?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: Mexican law establishes that the vote will only be counted for those workers who actually vote. And there is no stipulation for absentee voting. Those that aren't there just don't vote. Their vote doesn't count.
MR. KARESH: In any other situations, are you aware of whether there was any accommodation made for those types of workers either in or at other companies or in other situations where other unions, that you are aware of, may have had some kind of accommodation for workers who weren't able to attend a vote?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: The workers, for example, who have been fired can participate in the vote. It happened we had flight attendants that had been fired that they wouldn't let in. And, finally, because of pressure from other unions outside they were allowed into the voting area and they were allowed to vote.
It was shown that they had requested reinstatement and allowed for the labor link to maintain. It's the only case where fired workers were allowed to participate in the vote. But those who are absent, their vote doesn't count in either case, in either for or against.
MR. KARESH: I think that's it. Thank you very much. (First panel leaves and second panel is seated.)
MR. KARESH: I think what we'll do will be similar to what we did in the first panel where each panel member can make their prepared statement. And I believe there is one statement from a flight attendant who is sick and unable to attend. And I think someone is going to read that statement into the record. And maybe the best thing to do is have everyone make their statement and then we'll ask questions. Thank you. And please identify yourself at the beginning of your statement.
MR. MOTA: Good morning, Mr. Lewis. My name is Sergio Centeno Mota. I am a TAESA flight attendant. I joined TAESA in January 1992 and I worked for them for seven years and three months. During the time that I was a flight attendant I never received pay for overtime, for holidays, Sunday, bonuses. And despite this wasn't enough, the company also withheld my entire salary for reasons of debt to the company. That's why we would receive checks for zero. This was an instrument through which the company forced us to report expenses through fiscal receipts as representation expenses.
One example of my own situation was the following. In August 1993, I did five transatlantic flights and some domestic flights in Mexico, accumulating a total of 112 hours of flight, and more than 240 hours of work, largely exceeding what Mexican law establishes as 90 hours of flight and 180 hours of monthly work as a maximum. In December of 1995, I flew a total of 122 hours in high season, since the company didn't hire extra staff for high seasons and, therefore, we were flying much to many hours. This way the company saved money on hiring new people, on benefits for new people, and paying overtime.
The second week of December, 1997, I received one hour overtime or extraordinary compensation because I was considered an employee of confidence. And whereby I had to intimidate other flight attendants so that they wouldn't complain about the long shifts. The same way TAESA tried to convince us through payments for punctuality. TAESA tried to convince us to vote for CTM using payments for bonuses for punctuality or for attendance, things that had never before existed in the company.
Also, contributions to the Mexican Institute of Social Security, to the Housing Institute, and to the retirement system, they weren't done. And when we would go ask for loans, they would deny them to us because they said that our housing contributions hadn't been made. They said that all contributions hadn't been made, despite the fact that the receipts showed that they had been made. Proof of this, in 1996, TAESA was attached by IMSS.
I only received 10 percent salary increase in six years, once. I never received profit sharing, even though the company was reporting $100 million a year in profits, I did not receive anything in the way of profit sharing. In three years that I worked there, I received only one uniform that consisted of one jacket, one pair of pants, three shirts, to work every day, day after day, and two ties. This was you can understand the uniform was necessary for our appearance.
In 1994, our Christmas bonus was reduced by half and our vouchers for food were changed for internal documents that could only be exchanged within TAESA in the company store for products that we could buy actually at a lower price outside the company. This forced us to buy products within the company. It was $10, which was a meaningless amount. All these arbitrary actions that I was subject to.
I was promoted because I was a personnel de confidencia (ph.). I was to intimidate newly hired flight attendants so that they wouldn't complain about long working days or the fact that we weren't paid overtime. I had to intimidate them so that they wouldn't complain, so that there would be no reason for the company to be upset.
This function within the management structure of flight attendants was to detect and report on anybody who would be against the rules of the company that the union imposed. And anybody who refused to work beyond what the law required, or who wouldn't accept fewer rest periods than the law demanded, would be intimidated so that they would be given extremely hard flights, they would be restricted as far as their international flights. Since I was a confidential employee, I didn't receive any compensation for this work that I did, and I was also made to take the heavier flights. This is an example of all the violations that existed in TAESA, along with CTM, that were endorsed by the government authorities in Mexico, along with the CTM union, that was imposed on us by the company itself.
We never knew when it was created and yet we were forced to join through an exchange of credentials, identification cards. And we weren't able to change unions because they told us if we had -- this is the old ID card and here is the new ID card that we weren't allowed to sign because we were threatened with being fired if we did. That's how things were in TAESA, we had work terrorism on a daily basis.
Even though I was an employee of confidence, my constitutional rights as a worker were violated. We weren't treated like human beings. They took advantage of our need to work. The fact that we needed to work and also they took into account the precarious living conditions. This is, you know, very much similar to the dictators that we had at the beginning of the 20th Century in Mexico.
That's why, in 1997, a group of flight attendants met and went to visit ASSA, seeking a solution to our problems. In June of that year there is a lawsuit asking for the organization of flight attendants of TAESA in ASSA based on constitutional law of respect to the freedom to organize for workers in Mexico. The Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board rules in favor of TAESA and its union, the CTM, on the basis that ASSA is a professional union and CTM is industrial.
That's why ASSA presents a first legal action, an appeal, against the board, and they took a long, long time, months, before a sentence was issues. That's why a group of flight attendants -- to pressure so there would be a sentence on 17, July, 1998, and I've brought the document here.
They had a press conference, where they publicly denounced the irregularities and violations of constitutional labor laws that TAESA was committing, to pressure the authorities to speed up the process of organization of the union so that TAESA flight attendants could organize in the union. Fifteen days after this press conference, many colleagues were fired. And the authorities never recognized or they somewhat ignored the complaints of these workers.
The management of TAESA immediately gave instructions to further intimidate the flight attendants who would vote for or who were sympathizers with ASSA regardless of seniority, or their conduct, or their performance, or whatever. They would simply be fired if they were sympathizers of ASSA. The first appeal, again the sentence was in favor of TAESA and so we presented a second appeal in November of 1998.
And it was only in March of 1999 that we received a sentence in favor of ASSA calling for a vote by the flight attendants. And the company managed to get all the staff, not just flight attendants but pilots and ground crew, to vote so that, you know, they affected the vote. There was the same labor terrorism to manipulate the vote towards CTM and not in favor of ASSA.
And the day of the vote, when we got to TAESA's facilities in Mexico, we could see that there was so much security that the company had hired, armed solider, armed, you know, solider with heavy caliber arms, attack dogs, an electrified wire, to intimidate us so that we couldn't go in to the voting area since we were in favor of ASSA. And most of the attendants -- outside they had a loud speaker system, very loud audio, that went beyond safe hearing levels.
When they finally let us go in to vote, they treated us like when you go into a prison. They took all the radios, cell phones, so that we couldn't communicate. And their argument was that this was for security purposes when we were employees of the company. Inside the hanger there were the voting tables. We had to vote facing the director of the company. He was sitting there in front of us. And we had to say out loud who we were voting for. There were approximately 300 people who were in favor of CTM, when there were only four people representing ASSA.
I didn't know any of the flight attendants who presumably were also flight attendants from the company. And there were lots of people who were intimidating us and telling us who we had to vote for. And telling us that if we didn't vote for CTM we'd be fired immediately. This went on all day long. And if that wasn't enough, when it was my turn to vote, I was asked by the polling staff who I was going to vote for.
I said I was going to vote for ASSA. I was asked again as if saying, "Are you sure you want to vote for ASSA? And I said, "Yes." And he said "Well, okay." At that moment a security individual came over, grabbed me by the arms and took me out to a CTM union representative. All the workers, we all voted with fear, and are looking down, feeling we couldn't do anything right then, impotent. But these signs of humiliation, you know, it's like Hitler or Stalin, is how we felt.
With only three hours left to the end of the voting, thanks to the insistence of the ASSA representatives that were in the voting room, voting area, the notary finally allowed us to enter, to go in and vote. And the notary is the maximum authority there who obviously was in collusion with the company. Entrance into the voting was in groups of eight, and it wasn't directly into the area, it was to the management office of the flight attendants where confidence staff, I was one of them, would intimidate us.
Again, yet again, so that we would vote for CTM and not vote in favor of ASSA. From there we were escorted or we were watched until the moment of the vote. And, obviously, the result of the vote was in favor of CTM, because only the flight attendants were the ones who were in favor of ASSA. Since they had people from Traffic, from Sales, from many other areas who were planted there to increase the votes for the CTM. Also, I'd like to say that TAESA gave about 40 holidays to people who weren't colleagues from ours and they weren't the flight attendants with us. They weren't -- I'd like to say that the Mexican Government proclaims that it respects international collective bargaining and the rights of workers. It makes speeches about achievements made, revolutionary achievements, and it speaks of democracy but we need to ask some questions. What is Mexico, which Mexico are they referring to? The real one or the one where more than 100 million people live, or just the one where there are only a few 100 people who are trying to sell us ideas within or outside of the country. I am a flight attendant of TAESA. I was a staff member, a personnel de confidencia, a confidential. But I saw the injustices that my colleagues suffered day to day without being able to do anything because I needed my job. But here in Washington, I am pleased to be here to show the sacrifice and the misfortune that a small group goes through, and with solidarity to a small group which is flight attendants. Thank you.
MR. KARESH: Thank you very much.
MR. TEJEDA: Good morning. Once again, my name is Carlos Alvarez Tejeda. I want to clarify something, and that is that I have been working as a flight attendant for 14 years. I have been as a part of ASSA for seven years working for Aeromexico. And I worked for seven years in TAESA and I was a member of the CTM. Now I know personally the difference between both unions. I began working for TAESA in 1992, and I was fired in 1999 for voting for ASSA on the day of the voting that we have referred to. In TAESA, when I worked there during those seven years, what I saw was that this company was not concerned for the safety of the passengers or the flight attendants or any other workers, for that matter. The CTM began an agreement with TAESA in 1993, through the intervention of Angel Celorio Guevara. He was hired as a reservations agent and then the CTM gained strength in TAESA in 1994.
My colleagues have referred to how we had to change our ID cards. This was done in a rather secret way. If someone actually wanted to be paid, then you had to change your identification card. In order to change your identification card, you had to sign agreeing that you would affiliate with the CTM. If you did not sign your affiliation with the CTM, then they would not change your ID. And if you didn't change your ID, you would not receive your check.
The flight attendants that were not in agreement with becoming members of the CTM worked for two months and did not receive our checks. And we did this to show that we were in protest of this pressure. The repression that we had to deal with in TAESA was supported by the CTM. And in its eight years as a commercial airline, TAESA hired more than 900 flight attendants. TAESA needed 300 flight attendants to actually carry out their flights.
Every year 120 flight attendants were fired without justification. They were forced to sign a resignation so that they could be fired in such a manner that they would not receive what they really should. And at times their indemnization was received in three payments. The next year TAESA would hire another 120 or so flight attendants. And this was the practice that went on for several years.
The operations chief, Captain Renato Galina, said that the "Flight attendants are like cock roaches. If you lift your foot, they'll run our from under you." So you can see the attitude that the leaders of TAESA had for us. We had to do things at their whim. We were forced to work as waiters, we were forced to remain standing as mannequins at the meetings held at TAESA's headquarters.
This allowed the CTM to grow because we were being humiliated. And in 1995 some of our successes as a union were basically erased. We were supposed to receive 30 days pay as a Christmas bonus, but that was cut in half to 15. We had a savings amount that we were given at the end of the year. This savings account was also done away with.
We were given coupons for stores or restaurants and those were also taken away and replaced with coupons that allowed us to purchase products inside company stores for higher prices. This is something similar to stores that existed during the Mexican Revolution, known as en zaria (ph.)
In the beginning of the year, the first assembly was held with workers, that was after five years of inaction. And at this assembly Mr. Celorio was asked why we had lost these benefits. He answered, that he spoke with Captain Avige (ph.) and he said that he wanted in writing what our benefits would be. The Captain said he would not give them in written form. And the CTM determined that it would freeze our benefits for five years.
The working conditions of flight attendants varied from the most ridiculous conditions imaginable to the most complicated conditions imaginable. We have no social life, we have no family life, for that matter. All of the flight attendants throughout the world are given monthly lists of their flights that they will work on. We only receive that because we -- I only received those because I was a supervisor.
The regular flight attendants never received a monthly list. And if you complained why you didn't have a list of flights, to know what you could do during the month, you would get into trouble. I did this once and then they forced me to work 28 days straight. And I was forbidden to fly in international flights for two years because of that.
The company would take money out of our checks in an unjustified manner. And I actually received checks for zero dollars. Here, you can see this is the stamp. You can see that I have not opened the seal. You can see that I have two checks (holding up an exhibit). And these are two checks that came during the month of December. So my family had no money in December to buy Christmas gifts or have a nice Christmas dinner. And in order to recover this money, I had to sacrifice and it was extremely difficult actually to get the pay that I needed.
For years we did not have any protection, any life -- we had no life insurance, if there were accidents. Now, this is an obligation that the law requires. When we would fly, we would receive the ticket -- that we would receive right before we got on the plane.
And this was the same thing when we flew as passengers and we were told in the case of an accident we would be covered by the plane's policy. Later on they did not give us anything but the flight coupon when we flew. And we had no life insurance covering us.
But TAESA did offer us insurance policy for auto theft, and they took that out of our monthly checks. And one of my friends had his car stolen and he called the insurance company. And the insurance company said, "Well, no, we aren't going to do that because TAESA had not made the payments, but they did take it out of our checks.
The first aid and emergency classes in almost all of the companies, as I said, I worked for seven years at Aeromexico, and we had two weeks to a month of this kind of training. We did dishing exercises. And in TAESA we only received two days of training per year. Two days to train people that have never been flight attendants? That's inconceivable.
We flew seven different types of airplanes with different needs, how to open the doors, or where the security and safety system are, oxygen systems. So if it was difficult for me to be in all of these, you can imagine how difficult it was for all the rest of flight attendants.
I called the flight attendant instructor, because I have experience, and I requested Mr. Jesus Vivada (ph.), who was the manager of flight attendants, I requested information to receive my instructor's license. And he told me, "no." However, the person in charge of administration of flight attendants who had only flown twice was allowed to receive his instructor's license.
And they were our instructors at TAESA. I was part of the management of TAESA, I was a supervisor but I was never in agreement with the policy that TAESA followed, that was one of threatening flight attendants. These threats escalated and they did so because we did not have a real professional union to represent us.
The airline always had problems and the problems continued to grow until the accident in Uruban Michuacan where 15 passengers lost their lives, and five crew members died. You have flown, and you must remember that we the flight attendants talk to you and we show you these safety procedures and the safety equipment in a plane.
We show you how to use the oxygen masks. And you will remember that they will fall from the ceiling about you and you should take the closest one and put it around your mouth. On the 15th of September, 1998, I was on a flight. This was a shuttle flight, this was Flight 8312, this was from Tapachula to Mexico City.
Thirty minutes after take off, the plane lost pressure, and the masks fell. I took the closest one, covered my mouth but there was no oxygen. I took a portable bottle, after I stood up and I put it on. And what I had been taught at Aeromexico was to go and see how the pilots were doing and making sure that they had their oxygen masks on as well. They did have their masks on, but two minutes later there was no oxygen for them either.
I took off my bottle and I gave it to the pilot. And the pilot declared an emergency. His name is Captain Balter (ph.), and we returned to Tapachula. In Tapachula I checked the flight attendants cabin and I found that 52 oxygen masks had not come out of their compartments. You can imagine, 52 passengers without oxygen in the air. What would have happened if I had not gone to check how the pilots were doing? They could have suffocated. What would have happened?
When I arrived in Mexico, I made my report at the Flight Attendant's Agency. You will have a copy of that report. And in that report I informed what took place and what masks did not come out their compartments. This report was never answered by the management of the flight attendants. I looked into the matter with the mechanics and they said that the ducts, the oxygen ducts or tubes were plugged. They had dust and they had other things blocking them. In fact, some of the masks did not have the elastic band on them.
And what they would do when on this compartment -- what they did was they had to close the compartment so that it would not open in take off and landing, so they would not open automatically. That was a problem. You have flown. How far have you flown in the past? I imagine you arrive very tired, you want to take a bath, you want to sleep after a long flight.
Now imagine this kind of flight leaving from the City of Boston to Cancun. From Cancun to Manos, Brazil; then from Manos to Sante Fe, Argentina; from Santa Fe to Buenos Aires; from Buenos Aires to Puntacana, Island of the Dominican Republic; from Puntacana to Cancun; from Cancun to Mexico City; from Mexico City to Los Cavos; and from Los Cavos to Boston.
But it didn't end there. From Boston they would then return to Mexico City. The same crew was on all of these flights, without rest, without being able to bathe. And were eating food that had been put on the plane 10 hours prior to our flight. Our total work hours were 53 flight hours. You can imagine the lack of safety, violating all of the international standards without receiving any overtime pay. But if you were to complain, you would get the worst flights, in fact, they could even fire you.
Now, in this flight when we conducted these flights, the airline told us, if any authority got on we would say that we had just begun working. The crew, when it would arrive to other cities, it would go from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the airport. In some cases this was done using vans that belonged to company. In the City of Zacatecas the crew was in a traffic accident. Now, the most important thing is to find out if the people are okay. But TAESA was not interested in how were doing. At one time the van crashed into another large truck. And the crew members suffered some injuries. A colleagues of ours from Aeromexico drove by. She was traveling to Mexico City and she stopped and helped us. We asked her to let the people at TAESA know what happened, but they never came. The person at the airport at more concerned about having the TAESA flight canceled. The flight was not canceled and didn't leave late, however, and it only had two -- and two of the crew members that were on that plane were in the accident. The third crew member had to be taken to the hospital and obviously couldn't be on the plane. Sadly enough this flight attendant died in November in downed flight in Uruban Michuacan. Two of our fellow flight attendants died, one in Mexico City after the long work days we had in high season. He left work, went home and suffered a heart attack. His name was Emil Babrina (ph.)
Another colleague was responsible for the flight attendants based in Tiajuana. His name was Angel Franco (ph.). He was hospitalized due to the stress of his job. When he was taken to the Mexican Institute of Social Security, they refused to accept him. He was taken to the City of San Miguel (ph.), and they could not accept him there because no one could pay.
He was then returned to the City of Tiajuana where they put a valve in his head and we, the flight attendants of TAESA, paid for this because the company would not. He was in such bad condition that he was transported to Mexico City where he later passed away.
A Boeing 757, which had been overused and had the axle, the main axle broken on it. This happened in Canada. Boeing said that this has never happened to a 757. This was due to the lack of maintenance and overuse. I'm just about done. Now, I could take hours, and hours, and hours letting you know what has happened in TAESA. And I could talk about all the different circumstances, how we have been humiliated, how our management has humiliated us. I could talk about the lack of safety and this made us turn to ASSA in Mexico, and they extended a hand to us, and we are very thankful to them. And what we want is to have the freedom to associate. And I want to thank you for your time.
MR. KARESH: Thank you very much.
MR. VIVAS: Good morning. My name is Jorge Barrientos Vivas. I've been with TAESA since July 8, 1992, until recently. I haven't been fired, nor have I been told what my current situation is. I learned about the bankruptcy through ASSA. But since then I haven't heard a word from the company as far as my current status with the company. The only thing that I learned was that they had gone bankrupt.
At the beginning I spoke about the voting days in 1999, during the voting that took place in the company, the offices of the company. I voted for CTM, which is the other -- that was because Mr. Jesus Viva, my direct boss, threatened me that if I didn't vote for CTM I would be fired like the rest of the colleagues that voted for ASSA. And that besides, my career in aviation would be over. I had economic problems and family problems and so I saw myself forced to vote to CTM.
I was called at home and told to come to the airport to the main area, which we never did. We used to go just to TAESA's hangers. I went to the hanger where the voting was taking place and on the trip over there from the main lobby to the hanger, other company members threatened me, telling me what I should do, who I should vote for, and that I should have no contact with them because otherwise I'd be fired.
And when I got to the hanger, I saw that my colleagues were outside. They wouldn't let them in, they were being threatened with dogs. They wanted to talk and they put loud music on the loud speakers. I voted for CTM. I was taken to a little cubicle far away and I wasn't let out until everyone had gone. And then they let me go home.
During the voting I saw in subsequent days how my colleagues were outraged in terms of work. They weren't assigned any flights. They kept them in certain holding areas where we could look at them and they would point at them and accuse of being the reasons for TAESA's economic problems and for TAESA's bankruptcy. That's how they've always handled things, blaming ASSA for everything that's happened to the company.
During that time, they took pictures of everybody that was for ASSA. And they called everyone in for interrogations whether you voted for ASSA or for CTM so that we would finger the people in the pictures. And if they were in favor of ASSA, they would be fired immediately. And people who even voted for CTM, just because they were in the pictures, they were also fired.
During this time, the company told us that we had to inform them of anybody who was subversive so that they could fire them because the company was going to change. Those of us who stayed with TAESA under threat, we were told not to worry, that the company was going to be a new company. It was going to change within the ranks of aviation, that they were going to start to respect working schedules, working hours, which implicitly indicated that they accepted that they had violated them.
They told us that the people who had left TAESA because of the sympathizing with ASSA were going to be identified throughout the industry so that they couldn't get work with any other airline. According to them, after that we were going to have higher salaries, we were going to get vacation time. During the eight months, from the voting to the time that the company went bankrupt, we saw absolutely no change for the good.
We just saw detriment and deterioration in the company because there were increasing technical problems, labor problems. They kept threatening us that if we didn't fly certain flights that were illegal, they would fire us. There were many planes that were -- a lot of aircraft that was badly maintained that shouldn't have even been allowed to take off. And the crews were threatened that if we didn't make those flights, we would be fired. They were even going to -- they would do everything possible for us to lose our work permits.
They told us that they were going to put complete crews on the planes on the flights since 1994 we had been flying with minimum crew members, which according to law was illegal. But as an excuse, they said that in 1994 there was an economic crisis in Mexico, that's why they had to reduce the number of crew on flights. But we continued to fly with minimum crews, constantly breaking the law, because there were times when the number of passengers exceeded the number of crew per passenger required by law.
Maintenance on the aircraft deteriorated consistently. The airplanes in negative condition to fly. An example of this was in my case, November 6, 1999, a date that was very close to the Michuacan accident. But on that day I was on Flight 678, from Mexico to Morelia (ph.) to Chicago. When we were in Mexico, the captain informed the Maintenance Department that there was a problem with the pressure on the aircraft. The technical personnel took the captain a part that presumably was the cause of the problem, telling him that they were going to change them. They brought him a new part and said it was going to be installed.
We took off from Mexico, we landed in Morelia and when we got to Morelia, the captain checked the pressurization problem again, they told him they were going to fix it. Taking off from Morelia for Chicago, 10 minutes later the captain called me into the cabin to tell me we were going to have to land in Guadalejara because the plane couldn't go on to Chicago because we still had the pressurization problem we had in Mexico.
Landing in Guadalejara, the captain called the mechanic and told him we had a pressurization problem. So they went down to check the area where presumably the problem was, and he saw that the part that had presumably had been changed in Mexico was the same one. He'd been deceived, they hadn't changed it.
The captain said, well, that he wouldn't continue until they changed this part, otherwise he would make a report to the airport administration. They told him that the part wasn't available in Guadalejara, to wait for another plane to see what happened. During all this time, the passengers were on board. We were told not to give them any information, that there was official paperwork problems to get into the United States.
Roughly three hours went by when we were in Guadalejara which meant seven hours since we'd left Mexico. The passengers got hysterical, the children were crying, they begged us to let us off the plane to at least get some air. I was the senior flight attendant and when they asked us why wouldn't they take them off the plane, take them to a hotel because everyone knew from personal experience that that part was never going to get there, or was going to take a long, long time to get there from Mexico.
They told us, the TAESA crew told us that the paperwork had arrived. And whether the part would come, whether it was fixed or not, they had to leave whenever and whatever the cost. Three hours after all of this, they decided that they couldn't fix the part. They told the captain they would bring another plane to take the passengers to Chicago, but it would take too long so they were going to unload them disembark them and take them to a hotel.
Then the crew told us that it wasn't true that a new plane was coming, that they were simply going to fix this part. All this time they kept us on the plane. They presumably fixed the part. The captain agreed to take off again. By this time it had been 14 hours. We took off for Chicago. Luckily, nothing happened. We got to Chicago at 1:30 in the afternoon, approximately, the next day, when we had left at 6:30.
When I got to Chicago, I informed the crew, the chief, that we were very tired because we had been working for more than 14 hours and we needed to rest. And they told us well we knew we had to make the return flight to Mexico, since they didn't want to put anybody up in the States. So that we wouldn't have hotel and food expenses, they wouldn't put us up, so we had to make the return flight. We made the trip back to Mexico, getting there at about 10:00, so we were working for more than 24 hours.
Plus, the stress that we had knowing that there was a part of the plane that at any moment could have caused a serious accident. But this sort of thing happened almost on a daily basis in TAESA. We always would leave our houses with the fear that it might be the last day we'd leave and that we'd never come back because any day a plane could go down. Unfortunately that's just what happened, causing several colleagues to lose their lives. This could have been avoided but the company always told us that the captain was the guilty party for this accident, that it was his error. But many of us felt that that accident, if the aircraft had had the minimum maintenance that accident could have been avoided because that aircraft was in terrible, terrible condition. That plane was the X8TKN. I know it was in awful condition. It was like the second-hand truck. It shouldn't have been allowed to fly at all.
For example, in the passenger cabin, the flight attendants' seat in the main station should be retractable so that if there is an accident, it can be -- you can get out quickly. This wasn't retractable, it would fall down. If we sat down, the seat would fall. We had to sort of hang on so that the seat wouldn't fall.
The main door didn't close, so there was always a leak, a pressure leak on all flights. The smoke detectors in the bathrooms since the ones that came with the plane were no longer any good, they bought some in the supermarket. Home models and they put them in the bathrooms. But since they wouldn't buy batteries for them, the batteries would wear out and then they didn't work, they wouldn't work.
Lights in the cabin were always didn't work. So, as far as the accident is concerned, had they been able to land, there would have been the likelihood that the lights wouldn't have gone on, they wouldn't have been able to find the exit. The microphone from the pilots to us didn't work. So if they called us they couldn't reach us.
The lights to give instructions to give instructions to the passengers wouldn't work, so we had to tell them using the microphone. This plane was in terrible condition. And the authorities might say that there was a different reason eventually, but we're convinced that that plane was ready to fall because there was no maintenance ever given to that plane.
The whole time whenever a new attendant was hired, we always ran the risk that if they assigned us the flights that we were used to, where they'd give us you know, overtime, the new attendants wouldn't accept it. And we'd go to their room and we'd see that they weren't there. They wouldn't accept the flights and they had gone, they wouldn't come back.
Speaking of CTM, since I was at TAESA until it closed, I've seen how CTM not only didn't support us but it always agreed with management. It never handled a strike. It always told us there'd be a strike, but we never had a strike for contract renegotiations. I don't mean collective bargaining because we didn't have that. We never knew what collective bargaining was. For example, right now, the current situation the company never informed us what was going on. It was because we, ourselves, went and talked to ASSA. ASSA was the only one that bothered to tell us what was going on and that's how it was until recently. The company never informed us of anything. I'm here now, and even to the day that I left Mexico, they asked what was I going to do, where did I have to sign, when was I going to show up.
They forced us to go to meetings, to manifestations, to sign at a company that wasn't even open anymore, threatening that they weren't going to pay us a salary that, you know, we hadn't been paid. So they are making us go to manifestations, demonstrations that show on television, and we just don't agree with them.
More than anything, my fear now of anything that might happen is that TAESA is going bankrupt, but unfortunately from what I'm seeing, many of us that were still in company, the company's intention isn't to disappear but to perhaps open a new company with a different name to precisely try to avoid that there may be someone who really shows an interest in the workers and might fight for their rights. So what we want to avoid is that this happens. Because it's very probable that they'll want to do it again. We hope that it's not the case. And that if such a company does appear, which may be in the coming months, we can do something to avoid their continuing to behave the way they did in the past. Thank you very much.
MR. KARESH: It's about 20 after 12:00. What I'd like to do at this point is take a lunch break and wait for the additional statements after lunch and then question. So I'd like to break until about 1:30. Thank you.
(Off the record for lunch break.)
MR. KARESH: We're ready to convene now after the lunch break. I don't which statement we want to do next? Tim, Mr. Beaty?
MR. BEATY: Thank you, Lewis. My name is Tim Beaty. I'm the field representative in Mexico for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity. And I'm specifically going to speak briefly to Point 4, on page 10, of the submission, which has to do with the conduct of the election, as has been reported in the submission and also in previous interventions.
The election took place a year ago yesterday on the 22nd of March, 1999. At the request of the Association of Flight Attendants and, in turn, a request to them that was made by the Flight Attendants Association of Mexico, there were three of us that came to the main TAESA offices, just outside the Mexico City airport on the morning of the 22nd of March, in order to observe the election at the request of ASSA, myself, Ann Tonjes from the Association of Flight Attendants, and Jose Iglesias who is from the International Transportation Federation, a London-based federation of transport unions from around the world.
When the three of us arrived that morning we quickly found out that it was, first of all, unlikely that we would be able to be observers of the election in the hanger where the election was going to take place despite the interest of the ASSA to have us as observers for the reasons that have already been reported to you.
There was a very strict limitation on the number of people that ASSA could have present. There was no provision made for independent observers, despite the fact that there were a very large number of persons at the hanger actually witnessing the vote from the perspective of the union and the company, as was reported to you already.
So mostly my comments are with respect to the part of the submission that talks about the fear, intimidation and discrimination that were involved in the conduct of the election. And, again, many of the points that I'm going to make to you were already reported by flight attendants who attended, who voted but were outside after they voted.
Those observations of mine, while I stood there for the day, included armed security guards, both on the other side of the fence, inside the grounds of the company as well as more armed security guards up on the roof of the TAESA building looking out towards the street entrances, there were two entrances, where a number of people had gathered, predominantly supporters of the ASSA union, together with a large number of TAESA flight attendants who were only allowed to go in and vote and had to come right back out again.
I want to clarify, as has already been stated, that this was not the only polling site. It's our understanding that there were a number of polling sites around the country of Mexico at different places where TAESA flies in and out. So it was only my personal experience in Mexico City at the main hanger.
In addition to the security guards, the armed security guards, many of them also had with them attack dogs. And the attack dogs were also lined up with the security guards along the fences on the inside of the company property, clearly focused on the folks that were outside and obviously, as well, the folks that were using those entrances to come into the complex to vote.
And in addition to the armed security guards and the attack dogs, there were a series of very large speakers that rivals any hard rock concert that I've ever been to. I haven't been to that many. But blaring out all day long the TAESA theme song to such a volume that standing right next to somebody, if you were near the entrance, you had to yell at the person beside you just in order to be heard. And this was the situation for all of the flight attendants that were using that entrance to come in and vote that day.
In addition, there were people all day long videotaping those of us that were standing outside. Again, my impression was a point of intimidation about folks that were acting in support and, in particular, those folks that were coming in to vote on that day. And one piece of information that was not reported, that I heard yet in the folks that spoke today, was that I clearly observed buses that were obviously the property of TAESA company. They had TAESA identification all around buses with people inside that were clearly employees of TAESA, in the sense that they and TAESA maintenance uniforms on, for example. And it was also very clear to me standing on the sidewalk as these buses rolled by, that there were announcements inside the buses for the, in favor of the CTM union.
And it is my understanding that that is a violation of Mexican law in that the company was clearly showing a preference for one of the two unions in the recuento that was going on that day. While it was second hand, we'd get reports and folks would come in and out of voting, it was clear to me that there were a number of people that were all day long standing there that were not allowed to go in and vote. Some of them, I understand, finally did get in to vote towards the end of the day. There were people that actually spoke to us, "I'm a TAESA flight attendant, I'm trying to get in to vote. They won't let me in to vote. I don't know what's going on." My understanding was that the majority of them by the end of the day did get in. But that meant that many of them were standing five, six, seven hours in this situation waiting to vote. That was my personal experience as what I intended to be, which was as an observer to the election, an international neutral observer to the election at the request of the Flight Attendant's Union of Mexico. That's really all I had to say.
MR. KARESH: Thank you very much, Mr. Beaty. I think the other statement of going to be for Mr. Lebrac Alfredo Robles. And we're going to have that just entered into the record, is that correct?
MR. BEATY: That's correct.
(Statement of Mr. Lebrac Alfredo Robles is entered into the record.)
MR. KARESH: Let me start by asking a couple of questions with regard to the existence of CTM union at TAESA. When you were first hired and first started to work there, were you made aware that this union existed and provided a collective bargaining agreement or any information about the union?
MR. TEJEDA: No. When the TAESA began as a commercial airline, there was no union. The people that had worked for Aeromexico beforehand started working for TAESA and there was no labor union. It was in 1994 that a union appeared. We were never told what we were going to be unionized by CTM until they mentioned the ID change in order to get our signature and thereby validate our affiliation with the CTM.
MR. VIVAS: In 1994, when CTM appeared, it's interesting to note that, and I don't know if there was some kind of relation in all of this, but at that time there was an accident in TAESA. TAESA also had commercial and executive flights. And one of its executive flights did have an accident, but I don't know if there was any relationship between CTM appearing and that accident. The accident actually took place here in Washington.
MR. KARESH: Once the union was in place, did the union ever have meetings with the workers and explain what your rights were in the workplace or provide you a copy of the bargaining agreement, or did any of you ever ask for a copy of the bargaining agreement?
MR. MOTA: When the union appeared, we only had information that it existed. We only knew that it existed because of the IDs, but there was really no meeting at TAESA to say who our union leaders were or what the benefits that we could receive from the union if we joined. We weren't told anything as workers. We did not have information about the union.
MR. TEJEDA: If I may? In this regard, I will say that one day we were waiting in the waiting room where the flight attendants wait to find out if all of the crews have been covered. And Mr. Celorio came and he presented to us our representative in the CTM. And a friend of mine that actually worked in Aeromexico, Mr. Ramirez Arregando asked why was this person signed as the flight attendants representative in the CTM. And when he asked that question he was fired that same day.
MR. KARESH: With regard to the election and the day of the election, I believe it was mentioned earlier that there were four ASSA representatives who were permitted in as observers. How did this compare to the number of CTM observers that were there, from your recollection?
MR. MOTA: There were only four representatives in the hangar, which is where the voting took place. But there were more than 300 people who belonged to the CTM. Some of them were labor representatives, but they were actually police. They say that they were representatives of the CTM but they were police that had been hired by TAESA. And we were the only ones. The representatives from ASSA that were in line to vote -- a Mr. Nicholson (ph.), Ms. Barrales, another lawyer, and we were the only representatives there.
MR. KARESH: Were there any labor authority people there, anybody from the CAB helping to conduct the election?
MS. BARRALES: Now we're talking about the day the voting took place. And the only people that were there representing labor, there were only two that were there that were actually taking note of the voting. One was sitting at a table with us and the other was there at a consultation table. There were other officials that were there just taking notes and seeing if the IDs were actually valid. That's it.
MR. KARESH: And the intimidation tactics and other problems during the election, did you raise these issues with those authorities during the election?
MS. BARRALES: I couldn't hear.
MR. KARESH: I was asking whether you raised the problems during the election, the intimidation and the other issues that created a difficult atmosphere, whether you raised those issues with the labor authorities who were present and what their response was?
MS. BARRALES: Yes. We did let the authorities know. We told them about the problems that our fellow flight attendants had. Some of them were taken to a room and they were told that they were going to tell them how they had to vote. We took this to the authorities and the authorities told us they could do nothing because the company was the one, was the one that decided and it was the CTM that had the power there.
And we called four or five different times the Undersecretary of Labor to let this person know what was going on. And we did so to request that there could be greater impartiality on behalf of the authorities, so that the flight attendants that could not vote, we wanted to make sure that they knew that there had been police there and all the other things that we mentioned. But the authorities told us, "Well, that's private property and the company can do what it feels is appropriate." So that was what we shared with the authorities.
MR. KARESH: So it was during the election, while the vote was going on you actually called the subsecretary at STPS? Which subsecretary was that?
MS. BARRALES: I spoke a couple of times with Dr. Montezuma. I believe he is a Undersecretary A. And to let him know what was going on, Montezuma Barragan, I believe. But on that day, or one day before rather, excuse me, before the voting there was a change and we went for about three weeks without a Secretary of Labor. But the one who actually had authority at that time was Dr. Montezuma Barragan. And we let him know about that.
MR. KARESH: What was his response? Was he able to do anything for you?
MS. BARRALES: No. He said he knows what's going on. He had received information but this was all in accordance with our legal framework. And the company had the right to put as many people as it wanted to in the company. And we said, "That can't be possible." They cannot -- us face to face and have authorities there. How can they be telling the authorities what to do? I mean they were giving the authorities instructions. They weren't so obvious, but we called the authorities at least two times.
And we didn't feel like there was any reason to do it any more, because nothing was happening. And the authorities were just telling us, "Yes, we know what's going on but we can't do anything." So we just decided it didn't make any sense to continue to call. And we just decided, well, let's take care of the vote and we will let the flight attendants vote in favor of our union.
MR. MOTA: I also want to add this comment. When voting took place the sister of Captain Abed was there and she was attacking us verbally. She was using foul language. I was here voting and she was right in front of us and she was intimidating us openly in front of the authorities. And the authorities did nothing, they just continued as if nothing were happening.
MR. KARESH: Did any of the three of you have this difficulty about getting inside, that Mr. Beaty mentioned about some people had to wait five or six hours to even get inside to vote? Did you face that difficulty?
MR. MOTA: (Nods affirmatively.)
MR. VIVAS: (Nods affirmatively.)
MR. KARESH: All of you did?
MR. TEJEDA: Well, we met very early all of us. Those of us who wanted to change our union, we met very early that day. And at that time we were still employees and we were not given access to the company. We saw how about 1500 people came to vote and they were inside and we were left outside. And we had our uniforms, we had our IDs, we were outside. It was raining. It quit raining. It started raining again. And then it quit raining again. And then after about six hours of waiting outside, they gave us access. But only to groups of about five to eight people so that we could not get the votes we needed.
MR. KARESH: Was this only the flight attendants that were being kept outside, or were there other workers as well? And did they already have an understanding of how you were going to vote, and was it only the ASSA supporters that were outside, being kept outside?
MR. MOTA: Only the flight attendants who were in favor of ASSA, they were left outside. We were the ones that were not able to enter into the business so that we could vote. Everyone else was inside. Those who were supporting the CTM were inside. We the flight attendants were the ones that were outside because the value was requested for us exclusively. We were concerned about creating our union and everything else was organized by the company. So only we were outside. And we were humiliated by the company and the police that were hired for that day.
Also, the company knew that we were going to vote for ASSA. And they knew that we supported this union because they had sent people to the association to find out who were the people that were supporting ASSA. They sent some of their people to find out who was actually supporting ASSA. And when they knew that, those were the people that they kept outside.
MR. KARESH: Mr. Barrientos, you testified that you actually ended up voting for CTM. Were you also kept outside, or were you allowed in more easily?
MR. VIVAS: Those who voted for CTM, they were allowed to be inside the whole time. We were inside and they were telling us everything that was going to happen to those who were not going to vote for CTM. And at the same time, the simple fact that we voted for CTM, that didn't mean that they were going to keep us on. Because if we made any mistake, they were going to fire us. And they were going to do the same thing they planned on doing to the ones outside. Also, during the time that they were outside, they told us, if we wanted to offend them or use foul language, we could do that. And we could go and do that together, if we wanted, and we would security with us. And some of my colleagues did that.
MR. KARESH: Can you be a little more specific about who the people were inside, what type of management people were intimidating and saying these things and making the threats? I mean was it basically all the management people, was it just kind of the company director, or who was involved with that?
MR. TEJEDA: The management was organized into three groups. We had the manager Jesus Vivarlanderos, then Carlos Rosel (ph.), Mario Mucino, Pablo Cacho (ph.), Martin Garcia. And then there were supervisors, about 19 supervisors, and after that there were all of the flight attendants. All of the management with the exception of Sergio, Jose Abundis, Mr. Lale Reges (ph.), Mr. Gonzales, and myself, who were supervisors, we were against the CTM. Everyone else, and I can give you all of the names, if you would like, were in favor of CTM and they were the ones who went out to look at the -- that's who were outside and then they would write down our names and then they would go into management and they would start to make their lists. Other active colleagues of mine, colleagues that had worked with me on the same plane wrote down our names, and then went inside, and then they would prepare their lists. And there were people like Mr. Vivas that refused to do it. The threats were basically, "Don't be stupid, what is ASSA going to offer you?" And I told Mr. Martin, in front of Alejandra that ASSA offered me dignity in my employment. We had not talked increasing our salaries, we had not talked about other benefits. The only thing we wanted was dignity in our work. And we wanted to receive what the law stipulates. We were not making illegal demands.
MR. KARESH: Mr. Centeno, you testified that you were confidential employee, at least for some period of time. Did that effect your eligibility to vote as a flight attendant?
MR. MOTA: Really I, and I can say I support ASSA. And two days before the vote I openly said what my position was because we had the opportunity to change and receive a possibility of getting some dignity for our profession. And before the voting is when I was told that I could not go in and I was in the same situation as the other supporters of ASSA. And I was treated just as they were, and it was not much earlier that they supported ASSA. But I did have a little bit of a different situation because I was a confidential employee. But I was treated, I was humiliated afterwards even though I was allowed to vote before others.
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: I'd like to add something here. As far as the federal labor law treats what they call employees of confidence, who are defined as people who do general work but also confidential work. They have to specifically meet these characteristics according to Article 9. And the activities that he carried out were not those of a confidential employee because they weren't supervision of a general kind, nor was he doing personal work for the managers.
MR. KARESH: You testified that, including right up before the vote, you were being asked by management who you intended to vote for, which union you supported. Are you aware of any workers who refused to answer those questions? And if so, how they were treated or what happened to them?
MR. VIVAS: People who refused to answer this kind of question they were put under surveillance, special surveillance, they were considered people who were on the fence and so that they needed to be watched more closely than those who had decided which way they wanted to vote. Some company informers were told to follow them on their flight, see who they talked with, who they met with. And if they learned that this person had any doubts whatsoever, as to who they were going to vote for, they immediately considered them to be in favor of ASSA. Even if they hadn't decided specifically who they were going to vote for.
MR. KARESH: Were you aware of what happened at the other polling sites besides the one at the main hangar in DFA?
MS. BARRALES: Daniel is a representative of our organization and he was in Tapachula, in Chapas. He was at the vote there, so I'll ask him if he can address that question for the record.
MR SAUCEDO: My name is Daniel Saucedo, representative of ASSA and Aeromexico flight attendant. I was assigned as ASSA representative in the City of Tapachula, where I arrived at the airport as an ASSA representative. Nobody told us where the vote was going to be held. When the vote was about to start, a reporter, a newspaper man told us where it was going to be held. When we got there only 12 workers, not one of which was a flight attendant, voted.
But the workers all arrived in groups. And the company was there with a list. And using that list, it would tell everybody eventually to go in and vote. And the person would go in and vote. And they would say thank you and leave. They would have this list of names and they even kept a score, a running score, ASSA zero, CTM 15. They even said, "Fellow worker this is the logo of your union, support it."
And all the workers would come up afraid. And the workers would look at us, especially women, they would look at us and say, "We're sorry." But they were afraid and they would vote for CTM. They would bring them in groups and that's how they had them under control.
MR. KARESH: Did you witness this kind of intimidation where management was intimidating workers about who they should vote for, making any threats, or any of that sort?
MR. SAUCEDO: When we arrived at Tapachula, we visited some work centers. When I arrived as a representative of ASSA from Mexico, the door was closed to me. They asked me to leave. They didn't even know the union, that should tell you a lot. They didn't even know who the union was, but they were simply told this is your union and you've got to vote for it. That's what we saw in Tapachula.
MR. VIVAS: Those places that you are asking about outside of Mexico City, I know of a colleague who voted in Tiajuana for ASSA. And when he got to Mexico City, and they were telling me who to vote for, they would bring -- they brought him, they literally brought him threatening him since they knew he'd voted for ASSA, they knew from Tiajuana that he had voted for ASSA. They asked him why had you voted for us, and that he should lie, that they would give him the chance to correct his error. And that that way possibly he could save his job.
Because they also had intimidated him by telling him that pro-ASSA voters were very few. They are regretting what they have done and, like you, maybe you can get your job back, we'll give you the opportunity to vote. And he told them that he didn't know that you could repeat the vote, he could do it again. And they said, "Don't worry", he could do it again. And so then he voted a second time in favor of CTM because of what they told them. But six or seven months later they also fired him because of the same problem.
MS. BARRALES: I'd also like to state something we haven't mentioned before. Our colleagues and we at the union learned that once CTM and the company knew the date for the vote, for the polling, this was at least a week beforehand we were all informed, at least officially we were told, that it would be the 22nd of March.
One week earlier Captain Abed the director of the company along with a group of advisors and lawyers and confidential assistants, they went throughout the country and visited workers in Tiajuana, in Chapas, all the cities where they had workers, and they held the meetings with the groups of workers.
But it wasn't the union that was holding these meetings, it was the director of the company who would be accompanied by CTM leaders to warn workers whether they were pilots, or ground crew, or whatever, that if they didn't vote for CTM this would immediately lead to the company's bankruptcy. That they immediately as a result, workers from every post would be fired.
And despite these threats that they received the whole week. And in one day, what they had never done before, they went to three different work stations, they visited workers. Despite that, we had workers in some stations who didn't even know who ASSA was, where we hadn't had any contact. We had many workers who also voted for us that were immediately fired. Mechanics, most of them. And one of the stations with the greatest for us was Leone and also Tiajuana, Zacatecas also. These were the posts where ground crew voted for us and they were fired.
MR. KARESH: After the election when you filed objections with the Labor Board, what was their response and their decision with regard to those objections?
MS. BARRALES: Since we knew ahead of time that we weren't going to get the majority of votes because no airline in the world will you find that flight attendant are a greater number than ground crew, we knew what the result would be. But still we wanted to show that the flight attendants vote was the one that was in our favor. We were aware of all of this, and we gathered the figures to give detailed information. And from each worker on the day of the election, we were immediately tallying their votes, and legally showing that these workers weren't flight attendants.
And we were objecting to these votes one at a time, one by one, objecting that they weren't flight attendants. We did this until 1:00 in the morning to prove that they weren't flight attendants because the company was that annoyed because we were pressuring one by one. They wanted us to just generally say we were against the voting. It wasn't the case, we wouldn't do this.
Then we learned the sentence of the Federal Board two months later, their award, their verdict was that the voting had been favorable to CTM and against us. We filed an appeal saying that they hadn't given us the opportunity to present proof that we were saying that we wanted to only count the flight attendants. That's what we got now on the 17th January, that will now allow us to demand that they recognize who our flight attendants and who isn't flight attendants and now legally we are now in our right now to have this proven.
MR. KARESH: Does that mean that the local labor board is supposed to hold a hearing?
MS. BARRALES: We speak of proof, we speak of the workers who voted for us and we mean the ones that are flight attendants. The proof, the evidence we presented are social security documents of the IMSS which shows the true quality the true work stature. It has to show who is a secretary, who is a pilot, who is a flight attendant. And these workers in order to be able to vote, their category was changed and our evidence are these listings from the social security agency that can't be manipulated because it's information that's been there with the Social Security Administration for a long time. That's the evidence we're presenting which it's just been ordered that this be admitted for study.
MR. KARESH: I think I said "local labor board," but this is the Federal Labor Board, right?
MS. BARRALES: Yes.
MR. KARESH: Of the three of you, two of you were dismissed, is that correct? And how were you dismissed? I mean what information was given to you, what were you told were the reasons for your dismissal?
MR. TEJEDA: First of all, Sergio and I are supervisors. We were among the first to be fired as an example to everyone else. And after that every day they would fire people. In my case they didn't tell me absolutely anything. They just said, "Sign this sheet because you are no longer an employee and leave." We're going to leave with you newspaper articles from Mexico which describe several situations. Here's a report of a recording we made of a colleague who recorded the moment he was being fired where you hear very clearly that they say, "Because you voted for ASSA, I'm firing you."
MR. MOTA: In my case, I had vacation that I was planning to take. And my immediate supervisor called mein presumably so I could sign my papers for vacation. When I got to his office immediately I was placed under a supervisor, I had to be responsible for firing people. At that time the only thing they gave me to sign was a resignation. As if I wanted to resign.
And since I didn't sign this paper for obvious reasons, they fired me. They fired me, I was ushered out with security guards. And I was given no further explanation. We presume, we know that it's because I was a sympathizer of ASSA.
MR. KARESH: Have either of filed complaints with the Labor authorities with regard to your dismissals?
MR. MOTA: Yes. In effect, not only have we but almost all of the 97 flight attendants that were fired. We filed a complaint for unjust firing by the company, a few days after we were fired. But we've all presented a complaint for unlawful unjustified firing. These complaints for unjustified firing, in my case I am submitting my personal log book where I show that I had 17 consecutive days of work, including Sundays. I also present the hours that I work, on what dates, and these checks that should show premiums for working some days at night overtime, and those payments never showed up in our check stubs, in our pay stubs.
MR. KARESH: What is the status of your petitions? Are they just pending at this time, or have you received any notice from the Labor authorities with regard to them?
MR. MOTA: Right now the situation regarding our complaints is a little different since because the company is bankrupt. The company is bankrupt and we are waiting for the company to straighten out its own situation legally so that we can define our future with our suits because these suits were submitted before TAESA went bankrupt.
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: I'd like to bring you up to date on the status of these suits. They were presented as they were fired, so some 10, some 11, some 25, 15 days et cetera. The procedure requires a conciliation hearing with authors and presentation of evidence. And in all the cases these hearings are taking place, in some cases the union representatives have appeared and they all have been told that the exclusion clause was applied because they decided they wanted to belong to another union. As I explained earlier, this defense is deficient because jurisprudence in the court has defined that the workers that come to vote in a vote in an election like this are not subject to the exclusion clause when we are involved in a contract. There are 11 workers whose hearings were held last week. And the company wasn't present nor the bankruptcy representative was there, so no sentence can be given. The condition of the workers as far as their individual suits is that the process is ongoing and that there is a very high probability that we will obtain favorable awards in these cases.
MR. KARESH: With regard to the exclusion clause, were any of you any subject of any notice or proceedings to remove you from your union membership in the CTM, or anything of that sort?
MR. TEJEDA: No. We were never told by CTM anything since CTM never showed any interest for the employees and I mean in general. Pilots, ground crew or flight attendants, we were never informed of anything. We were imposed in an arbitrary, in the most arbitrary manner possible. But we were never told that this exclusion clause even existed.
MR. KARESH: With regard to other issues that you've raised, safety and health concerns, the overtime hours and the long hours that you worked, the failure to make insurance payments and other pension kinds of payments, did you or any of your other workers that you are aware of, or the CTM union was there. I mean, who did you raise these complaints to? Did you speak to management, did you speak to your union representatives, were any complaints filed with government authorities with regard to these issues?
MR. VIVAS: Whenever we had a problem of this kind, we would talk to everybody because since we were so desperate to be heard, we would talk to whoever would listen, CTM, the management, the crew, the department under who we came, to tell them the things that they themselves were doing wrong that they weren't aware of. The only thing they told us was, "Everything is going to change. Wait a minute. Right now the company has got some programs, just wait a little bit. But stop talking about this. Don't tell your workers about this because they are going to fire you or they will cut your salary."
For example, we had a direct order that if we flew overseas like the United States or Canada, if any authority approached the plane to ask us how we were feeling or where we were going. We should always say we were going to the hotel, we were fine, we were fresh, the flight was just starting, we'd rested the normal amount of hours.
And this was all a lie because to begin with, for three years we had not been allowed to spend the night overnight in the United States. Any flight scheduling we had, we had no over nights here.
MR. KARESH: Are you aware of whether anyone either from the union or the workers themselves actually attempted to file complaints with the governmental authorities about this either in Mexico, or perhaps some of these authorities you were talking about in one of the other countries while you were traveling?
MR. TEJEDA: One time, and I don't remember the man's name, he had to change companies and he is now flying for Allegro. He sent the company, many years ago in 1993, CTM didn't even exist then, because in one year we had worked 1,000 hours overtime that we had basically just given to the company because we didn't charge them for them. Mr. Quinn, Alejandro Quinn, he is now with Allegro, but he got very annoyed and he sued the company. And they threatened him to the point where he had to go to work for another company.
MR. KARESH: Have you had the opportunity to speak to any of the Civil Aviation Authorities about these issues, or any of your colleagues, do you know?
MR. MOTA: We since I was a confidential management assistant, I knew that the company and the Civil Aviation Authorities maintained good relations. All the violations were known to the general direction of the of Civil Aviation because they always allowed planes to take off in bad condition. We knew ahead of time that the authorities would do surprise inspections as part of the Secretariat's work and management.
At least the department that I was in, we always knew ahead of time that certain authorities were going to come and inspect certain aircraft. So the company was always prepared so that there wouldn't be any kind of violation visible to these authorities. But they knew ahead of time when these inspections were going to take place, these visits on the part of the authorities.
We used to fly to Laredo and they always told us somehow that the Federal Aviation Agency was going to make some sort of inspection on the plane. For example, if the plane was going to fly on the 6th of the month, we knew that that day there would be an inspection. TAESA knew ahead of time that that day on that flight the FAA would do some sort of inspection, when supposedly this is supposed to be a surprise inspection.
But they knew ahead of time on the specific occasions with all the requirements that the aircraft manual indicated. But it was in those specific cases when we knew ahead of time that there was a surprise visit coming. We knew in Laredo, which was the destination where there were more stops, or anywhere in Mexico, we knew when the authorities were coming.
MR. KARESH: Did any of you actually see any of these representatives either from Mexican authorities or U.S. authorities on the planes?
MR. VIVAS: I have a specific case, one time in Laredo, Texas, when we landed with a 737, one of the motors was closed, taped over, because the latch to close the motor wasn't working so they had put tape on it to close it. The FAA representatives arrived to check the plane. They saw the problem in the motor. They called the captain and when the captain approached them, they said, "Captain, what is this?" And he said, "Well, the plane hadn't given him any problems during the flight, to door hadn't opened, it was fine, it was closed with the tape and the person from FAA told him, well, don't worry, we have very good relations with TAESA because they gave them service in Dallas, Texas. And that was the answer they got because they had good relations with the company.
MR. KARESH: In the various safety and health complaints that you raised and you raised them with your supervisors and with management. Other than some of these responses where you indicated that they said, Well, we have some problems, we'll get to it, we'll take care of it, were they responsive to any of these? I mean did you see changes, I mean when you raised complaints about serious safety problems, were there any indications that they made corrections?
MR. TEJEDA: No, the company never did anything. We've got the case of the two coworkers who died, they showed no interest. We have the case of the planes that were in bad condition, they didn't care about that either. Many times we would approach them, we often argued heatedly because of the problems at TAESA.
And there is a plane, a Boeing 727, a DBE, which during descent and then landing, the door opened, you could put your hand in there. We were told -- the Flight Attendants Association what was happening. And they would say to us, "Nothing happened so keep quiet." So the company never did a thing to remedy its problems.
MR. MOTA: I have one comment. It was when Dr. Lara, who was in charge of a Mixed Commission for security when she began to call the company to task on safety, and when she noted many of the different violations, she really wanted to fix the problem. And in less than a month, she was fired from the company because she as a troublemaker, someone who was going against the company.
Also, there would find people for these positions who would be employees of confidence that would say, "Oh, everything is fine, there is no problems, we're taking care of things. And inside the hangars and in the airplanes everything is fine." But when the doctor, when this lady with a Ph.D. wanted to try and fix it, they wouldn't let her and she was fired.
Let me give you another example. Many of the problems of TAESA were so well known that there were passengers that knew about this. There had been cases where some of the parts of the airplanes had fallen over cities in Mexico. There are other cases where some of the seats actually flipped up during take off because they weren't bolted down as they should be. TAESA was known for problems. And there is actually -- this was something that we had heard through Aeromexico, basically. "If you don't care about your life, fly with TAESA."
MR. KARESH: What about with regard to payroll tax contributions and insurance, were any of those complaints responded to? Were certain payments of those sort, have those ever been made.
MR. VIVAS: If we ever went to the Finance Department to ask, for example, if we wanted to receive what we deserve for purchasing a house, for example, we would be told that, "Well, you need to go to the bank, the bank takes care of that." Or "You need to go to the secretary that deals with that." When we would go to that bank, they would sometimes laugh at us, say, "What do you mean? You don't have one peso. You don't have a right to anything here because your company has not made any payments." So we'd go back to the company and they would say, "We are going to improve our company and we are going to make good on all the back payments." But they never did anything. And that was the answer that we would get. And, as I said, most of the time they were just threats.
MR. KARESH: You have indicated that you have filed complaints, a number of the workers have filed complaints with regard to the unjust dismissals. Are there any complaints with labor authorities or other authorities in Mexico with regard to these other payments that you say you are owed, overtime payments, these other payroll tax contribution, insurance, these things? Are there any pending suits or administrative matters with regard to those complaints?
MS. BARRALES: All of these complaints were presented by those workers who started to support ASSA. And these were presented to the aviation and labor authorities. We presented the complaints legally. We did it with documents, we conducted interviews, we met with the authorities but we received no real answers. And when that happened, we went to the media.
We started to hand out flyers, provide information in the airports in Mexico, and this is something that we did for more than two months, almost three. And nothing, we never received an answer. The documents have continued along the trail, and the individual complaints are being processed, but we have never received any answer. And this is something that both labor and aviation authorities know full well.
MR. KARESH: Mr. Garcia Mendoza, do you have any further information about those actions?
MR. MENDOZA GARCIA: Regarding the benefits that the workers have a right to have, overtime, rest days, when the individual complaints were made, then they are addressed in a individual way. Now, legally, as she said, the company does have to make good on its commitments. And we are in a position to give the evidence necessary so that they will receive what they deserve.
MR. KARESH: Obviously, we'd be interested in receiving any documentation you have with regard to those actions, or any decisions past or future with regard to them. Are any of you aware as to whether TAESA was ever assessed any fines or penalties or any other action was taken by any of the governmental authorities with regard to any of the safety and health conditions that you raised?
MR. TEJEDA: Yes. In fact, the general director and owner was arrested for tax evasion. He did not pay his taxes to the Mexican Social Security Institute, so the authorities did do something to try and fix the situation, but nothing really happened.
MR. VIVAS: In 1996, TAESA also had problems in other countries, not only in Mexico. For example, we went to the airport in Gander, Canada, and they would not let us leave the airport, the Canadian authorities would not, because TAESA had been taken to court by a company there because TAESA had not paid its bill. It was a very significant amount of money.
But the only thing that TAESA said is that it had never been able to go and pay. There was no one from the company that could go. And they had sent a different crew. And we never knew anything, we didn't know what was going on, no one ever said why they hadn't paid.
MR. KARESH: Were any of you on or aware of the activities at Commission Mixta in TAESA?,\
MR. MOTA: Yes, we did know about the activities of the Commission Mixta in TAESA. But it was just a short month long period and it was functioning as -- when we had the Dr. Lara in charge of the program. And she was fired a month later when she tried to do things as they should be done. There was another person that was assigned as the head of the Commission, but this person did not find any violations or anything at TAESA.
MR. KARESH: Thank you. One last question. and that is, Ms. Barrales, has any complaint or anything been filed before the International Labor Organization with regard to TAESA, do you know?
MS. BARRALES: We believe that in general there are many things that we have to mention about what is happening with TAESA, but at the beginning as I said, the company has now gone bankrupt. And we are not simply demanding the these workers can return back to their jobs. What is important for us is to do whatever is necessary to guarantee that all workers in our case Mexican workers, have the right to associate. And we know that Mexico says on an international level that freedom exists but in all honesty that position in incongruent with what is really happening in our country. There are people that belong to labor organizations but that does not mean that this free or the right to free association exists. The labor unions exist. But as we've seen in the aviation industry and we've really have shown this, and we hope that you agree with us, many of the labor issues in aviation affect our safety as workers and the safety of passengers, so we want all of this to be part of our complaint.
MR. KARESH: Are there any further comments that you'd like to make at this time?
MR. VIVAS: I would only say and I don't know if this needs to be called a warning. I would just say that be careful with this kind of people. These people have very influential contacts in Mexico and at any time they are going to create a new company. And I just want to say you need to be aware that they may try to do the same thing over again. And we do not want this to happen again. And we have to be very careful.
MR. KARESH: Thank you.
MS. BARRALES: I only would wish to share our feelings, those of us that are here at this hearing. It is very sad for us as Mexicans to have to be knocking at different doors to try and exercise the rights that we have in our country. But globalization is a fact. And given that fact, we realize that this is an important door to be knocking on. It is sad to know that we have had to do this, but at the same time we are happy to know that there is another option. And I just wanted to share that with you, to thank you.
MR. KARESH: Thank you. This concludes our hearing today. A transcript of today's hearing will be produced and made available to any interested persons on request. I want to thank everyone for participating, particularly those who traveled a great distance to get here today. All the presentations and the information provided here today will become part of the record. We will hold the record open for any additional materials that you may wish to present at any time between now and the time that we conclude our review. Thank you very much. The hearing is adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 2:45 p.m., the hearing was concluded.)