American Flight Attendants $3 Million Behind On Union Dues

American Flight Attendants $3 Million Behind On Union Dues

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While this (hopefully) shouldn’t impact the passenger experience, I can’t help but find this to be surprising…

American flight attendants ~$3 million behind on union dues

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) represents American Airlines flight attendants. The union has just sent a note to members with a pretty shocking statistic. The union claims that:

  • 7,636 flight attendants are behind on their union dues, representing around 32% of the membership
  • Those flight attendants owe $2,983,410.10
  • That means the average member who is behind on dues owes around $390

The union claims that dues are the lowest in the industry, and have been the same since 2002, even though the membership has seen a 14% increase in contractual wages. It’s also noted that over 90% of dues go to the actual operation of the union, and the other 10% go to a mandatory restricted account for negotiations, known as the Negotiations and Negotiations Related Fund (NNRF).

Obviously the pandemic has been financially challenging for many. Those who were on involuntarily unpaid leave during the pandemic won’t have to pay these outstanding dues for while they were gone. However, other members, including those who took a voluntary leave of absence, are still on the hook for all dues. The union claims it negotiated all leave agreements, so therefore members need to pay dues for the entire period they were gone.

32% of flight attendants are behind on dues

Union threatens to have members fired

The note to flight attendants goes on to talk about what could happen if dues aren’t paid. Specifically, flight attendants could be terminated for not paying these dues, per the contract:

1. The Secretary/Treasurer of the APFA shall notify the Flight Attendant, in writing, certified mail, return receipt requested, copy to the Vice President of Labor Relations of the Company, that she/he is delinquent in the payment of initiation fee and membership dues, as specified herein and, accordingly, is subject to discharge as an employee of the Company. Such letter shall also notify the Flight Attendant that she/he must remit the required payment within thirty (30) days of the date of the mailing of the notice, or be subject to discharge.

2. If, upon the expiration of the thirty (30) day period, the Flight Attendant still remains delinquent, the APFA National President shall certify, in writing, to the Vice President of Labor Relations, copy to the Flight Attendant, that the Flight Attendant has failed to remit payment within the grace period allowed and is, therefore, to be discharged. The Vice President of Labor Relations shall then take proper steps to discharge such employee from the service of the Company.

3. A Flight Attendant discharged by the Company under the provisions of Paragraph F shall be deemed to have been discharged for cause within the meaning of the terms and provisions of this Agreement.

What happens to those who can’t pay their balance in full?

  • Members who were on unpaid leave can take part in a payment arrangement, in the form of signing a promissory note, which will remain in effect until the balance is paid in full
  • Meanwhile members who weren’t on unpaid leave need to pay the full amount, and are ineligible for payment arrangements
Flight attendants could be terminated for not paying dues

The dynamics here must be interesting…

I can’t help but note all the different interests at play here:

  • Obviously the union and management often have different priorities
  • I can’t imagine management wants to terminate any employees right now for unpaid dues, given that American doesn’t exactly have many spare flight attendants, especially ahead of the busy summer travel season
  • The union also needs to remain popular with members, and if the union is coming after 32% of flight attendants, I can’t imagine members will be happy; that’s especially true given the scandals we’ve seen at APFA in the past
  • Could we see more contention between union management and the rank-and-file flight attendants?

With such a strong warning, I guess we’ll find out how much of the roughly $3 million in dues gets paid down shortly.

I can’t imagine American wants to terminate flight attendants

Bottom line

The APFA claims that 32% of American Airlines flight attendants are behind on their union dues, to the tune of roughly $3 million. Flight attendants who don’t pay the balance in full (or set up a payment plan, if they were on involuntary unpaid leave) could be fired.

I’m curious to see how this plays out. Presumably many members haven’t been able to prioritize making these payments, especially if they were on unpaid leave.

How do you see this situation ending for the union and members?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Conversations (45)
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  1. FlyerDon Guest

    American loses, the flight attendant’s union loses money, it sounds like a perfect match.

  2. Scott Guest

    I think this could be as simple as giving them a modern system by which they could pay their dues. Especially for a group of people that are by definition always on the go, antiquated methods like paying by check will not work. If you provide antiquated or no options, you'll get these kinds of results. Set up an online dues payment system and this number would be drastically reduced.

    The AFA-CWA has set...

    I think this could be as simple as giving them a modern system by which they could pay their dues. Especially for a group of people that are by definition always on the go, antiquated methods like paying by check will not work. If you provide antiquated or no options, you'll get these kinds of results. Set up an online dues payment system and this number would be drastically reduced.

    The AFA-CWA has set up a digital dues payment system that's extremely effective.

    Give members the ability to pay using their phones, crazy concept I know.

  3. Davis Guest

    Really not a story... people get behind on dues all the time. Teamster here with the same dues paying requirement as most other unions... wound up several hundred dollars behind on dues after leaving my employer first on layoff and then permanently seperating during the pandemic and even changed locals in the midst of the pandemic.... balance followed me and they just took like $50.00 on top of dues every month until the balance was...

    Really not a story... people get behind on dues all the time. Teamster here with the same dues paying requirement as most other unions... wound up several hundred dollars behind on dues after leaving my employer first on layoff and then permanently seperating during the pandemic and even changed locals in the midst of the pandemic.... balance followed me and they just took like $50.00 on top of dues every month until the balance was satisfied... it's pretty common and not a big deal...

  4. Timo Gold

    Name any labor union without scandal. At least airline unions aren't as bad as teacher unions have been the past two years. My God, they make the Mob look saintly.

  5. Steven E Guest

    Well you either pay or you’re not a financial member in good standing and have 30 days to pay or you’re out ! Simple - If it affected their credit rating I’m sure they would pay up.

  6. Josh Guest

    Best news I've read all day. Union should file a writ of garnishment and garnish said wages!

  7. Eric Guest

    Stop saying that it is the unions fault that a lot of fas are lazy.
    The core problem is that the union is run by very senior fas, who happen to be.... well seniority oriented in absolutely everything. So they serve themselves...... !!!!!!
    We could be unionized and not seniority driven. If our trips and bids were awarded based on performance ,plus attendance perfection, plus seniorty...seniority.... the us airline industry would be another...

    Stop saying that it is the unions fault that a lot of fas are lazy.
    The core problem is that the union is run by very senior fas, who happen to be.... well seniority oriented in absolutely everything. So they serve themselves...... !!!!!!
    We could be unionized and not seniority driven. If our trips and bids were awarded based on performance ,plus attendance perfection, plus seniorty...seniority.... the us airline industry would be another monsters service wise.
    All fas have to do to have a better work life is sit and wait. We are not encouraged or rewarded in any way, shape or form to be better in term of the performance.
    You are welcome.

  8. Matthew Guest

    Speaking from a non-US perspective; how is that legal?! How can a union decide whether someone gets fired or not? Surely people can just choose not to be part of a union and pay dues?

    1. Deborah Bommer-Morrissey Guest

      They can’t. American is “closed shop,” meaning it is mandatory to join the union. Since this is the case, there’s probably a clause somewhere allowing the company to terminate employment for nonpayment of union dues.

    2. Eric Guest

      You can decide not to be part of the union, but you still have to pay dues. Why? Because you benefit from negotiated benefits. You don't get to be your own, with different work rules.

    3. Tom Guest

      Michigan allows for exclusively represented workers to opt out of the union, not pay dues, and still receive the negotiated benefits and pay. The only thing they lose is the right to vote in union elections and the respect of their unionized coworkers.

  9. Sunshine Guest

    I hope this writer does a little investigation into how the dues money that APFA collects is spent...there are several union officials who have embezzled mountains of cash.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      I WOULD HOPE THIS WRITER WOULD DO THAT.

      LOL

  10. Jerry Diamond

    Is a 14% pay increase since 2002 (20 years) really something that the union should be bragging about? I doubt that beats inflation over that time period.

  11. mdande7 Gold

    AA can't fire them for being rude or shi**Y at their job (per union contract) but can fire them for not paying their dues. Wow, just wow.

    I'm generally not anti-union for things like wages, safety benefits etc. But damn.

    1. Goforride Guest

      Specifically, by law, airlines are "closed shops".

      Everyone must be a union member to work there and the union alone decides who is a member of the union.

      So if one isn't a union member becaause one doesn't do what one must do to be a union member, one cannot work there.

    2. Matthew Guest

      Wait, so cabin crew can’t choose not to be part of the union and therefore choose not to pay dues? That’s crazy!

    3. Goforride New Member

      Correct. Airlines are all closed shops.

      The employees vote to unionize and to do so requires a very high bar, more than simply 50% plus one. In order to unionize. employees must get 50% plus one not just of all the votes cast, but of all the employees. So anybody that doesn't vote in a unionization election is effectively casting a "no" vote.

      In exchange for meeting that high bar, something that applies to no...

      Correct. Airlines are all closed shops.

      The employees vote to unionize and to do so requires a very high bar, more than simply 50% plus one. In order to unionize. employees must get 50% plus one not just of all the votes cast, but of all the employees. So anybody that doesn't vote in a unionization election is effectively casting a "no" vote.

      In exchange for meeting that high bar, something that applies to no other industry, airlines are closed shops.

      People who go to work in the airline industry know that and if they don't like it, they can choose to work in another industry. They can't freeload off the sacrifice of their co-workers.

    4. GringoLoco Gold

      Oh, you want a meritocracy? That ship sailed in 1970s. Plus, that ain't the union way!

      Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

  12. Bas Guest

    I am a flight attendant for an airline based in Atlanta and which enjoys no Union affiliation ….we are paid well and bonuses are paid when the company is solidly profitable….there are some serious movements here toward unionization because there are no black and white rules regarding rescheduling and hours worked and even days added on to your trip if weather or other issues should cause cancellations etc etc ….those rules need to be black and white….not gray

    1. AUDL Guest

      Don't mislead people. The Atlanta based airline you are refering to has work rules in black and white. The buzz statement you made above is typical union propoganda.

    2. Goforride Guest

      I'm the sure the work rules are written in black and white.

      Speaking from personal experiance, the problem can be the interpretation and implementation of what's written in black and white.

      The real world doesn't alway mesh cleanly with the written rule.

    3. Dempseyzdad Member

      The rules are in black and white...until they're not. Which is the whole point. Please, unless you are a current or former in-flight employee of this airline, leave YOUR propaganda out of the conversation.

    4. Unrepresented Stew Guest

      Not all the UN-represented stews at the un-named ATL based airline agree with AUDL’s comment above. His statement means to imply that all the f/as at that airline are as satisfied with the status-quo, and that’s a different kind of propaganda, in and of itself.

    5. Dempseyzdad Member

      I worked for that same airline from 1989 to 2004. I can assure you the union movement has been going on "seriously" for 25 years. Had we a union then, thousands of "RD's" would have been protected from losing seniority when PanAm was acquired (not merged)...but consistently it was our FA's in "the Southeast" who shot us down. THEY are the ones who need to be convinced that Daddy D will not always be fair.

    6. Goforride Guest

      "My airline group" unionized in 1999 largely because of the same sorts of things. Everyone wants more money, but the lack of clarity and consistency in interpreting and applying all sorts of rules is what pushed a lot of people over.

    7. Josh Guest

      Please stay non union! In the end your better off! This isn't 1943 anymore! Keep in mind that when your flown into your day off your getting compensation for doing that and you have a job!

    8. Bob Barker Guest

      barf! It doesn't have to be 1943 to understand the point of a union. Greedy corporations haven't raised real wages in over 30 years, which is around the time unions began to die off thanks to the PR machines. Your 401k is a great example of that. It was sold to you as "you get control your retirement." That is because greedy companies couldn't control themselves and raided pension funds. But now the reality is...

      barf! It doesn't have to be 1943 to understand the point of a union. Greedy corporations haven't raised real wages in over 30 years, which is around the time unions began to die off thanks to the PR machines. Your 401k is a great example of that. It was sold to you as "you get control your retirement." That is because greedy companies couldn't control themselves and raided pension funds. But now the reality is that most people are horrible at money management. So we will see a terrible financial crisis soon from all those who didn't save enough for retirement.

      Also..it's not about ONLY the pay when it comes to decided union or not.

      We've been sold a crazy line in the us that everyone should be happy to work for a corporation, so shut your mouth, don't ask questions and work. That's why everyone hates working, hates their boss and are exhausted and overworked. If the pandemic didn't prove that point to be correct, I don't know what would convince you otherwise. Unions helped people truly balance work and life. My uncle was the sole bread winner in a union in the 70s and 80s. Had a wife and two kids...wife was able to stay home and raise the kids. They built their own house, had 2 cars and still could go on vacation yearly. Today many single earners are having to think about getting a roommate just to get by.

  13. George Romey Guest

    Interesting. I can't see management wanting to fire those flight attendants. I also wonder if some flight attendants are starting to think what does the union really provide us?

    One thing I can tell you from conversations (usually easily overhead sitting in row 1) there's no small number of flight attendants tired of working with other flight attendants that are lazy and want to use COVID as an excuse to sit and play with their...

    Interesting. I can't see management wanting to fire those flight attendants. I also wonder if some flight attendants are starting to think what does the union really provide us?

    One thing I can tell you from conversations (usually easily overhead sitting in row 1) there's no small number of flight attendants tired of working with other flight attendants that are lazy and want to use COVID as an excuse to sit and play with their phones while on duty or act like they're working in a hazmat area.

  14. Jim Guest

    The lowest dues in the industry... except, of course, for DL, which pays the same (on average, including bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing) and has $0 dues.

    1. Scudder Gold

      DL's employees have effectively free-loaded off the backs of other companys' union members who have set the bar for pay and work rules.

    2. Unrepresented Stew Guest

      Agreed. And as long as they remain unrepresented, the work done by f/a will continue to be undervalued.

    3. dander Guest

      Oh Please. Delta is one of the best employers around. A person should not be forced to join a union and pay dues to work.

    4. Jay Guest

      Top pay, top profit sharing, etc. Seems like Delta is setting the bar for the unionized airlines to strive for. LOL.

    5. Timo Gold

      Oh puh-leez. Too bad. You win some, you lose some. It's still a free country and if you benefit from momentum, so be it. One doesn't owe their existence
      due to others nor should one be punished because of others.

  15. ramcm7 Guest

    I suspect if they are active duty, they are paying current dues and this relates primarily to non-work during the pandemic. I wonder how fast they might pay those back dues if they were to keep their jobs, but lose all seniority and become de facto new union members for non-payment.

    1. Goforride Guest

      Right. Dues for working employees are taken by payroll deduction as part of the union contract.

      This is the first time I've ever heard of employees on voluntary furlough being expected to continue to pay dues, not even after 9/11.

      But Covid staffing reductions exceeded even 9/11 and the union still has fixed expenses that have to be paid.

  16. Jason Guest

    I dont care and it's none of our business.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Translation: I cared enough to read and comment, and I didn’t like it.

    2. Kyle Guest

      I know it's weird but some of us like airline industry news, which is why we go to websites that feature it.

    3. Unrepresented Stew Guest

      But, why are non-employees so obsessed with f/as? Many folks have an opinion about what we should do and what we should not get. Yet even more pax get on board, and disrespect cabin crew members, in some way or another, on every flight. Why? This is a serious question

    4. John Guest

      The people who read OMAAT, etc are generally the pax who fly frequently, enjoy it, and have a positive attitude towards FAs. In return, we want the FAs to have a similarly positive attitude, and be proud of providing a great service. We're not asking you to be servants like on the Middle Eastern carriers, but just a mutually positive relationship. Problem is that we often don't get this from the older FAs, many of...

      The people who read OMAAT, etc are generally the pax who fly frequently, enjoy it, and have a positive attitude towards FAs. In return, we want the FAs to have a similarly positive attitude, and be proud of providing a great service. We're not asking you to be servants like on the Middle Eastern carriers, but just a mutually positive relationship. Problem is that we often don't get this from the older FAs, many of whom can be reasonably presumed to have high seniority. As such, we blame the union's seniority system for rewarding those who are not good at their job at the expense of the often junior FAs we love. Additionally, the union is often opposed to any sort of service improvements, despite many Junior FAs wishing that the service could be improved so they could take more pride in it.
      Yes there are exceptions on every side. Some of the pax who follow these blogs are jerks, some senior FAs are great, and some junior FAs are terrible. Generally speaking though, this is the logic behind why we don't like the union and have opinions on these things.

    5. 38yrStew Guest

      I really don’t think you fly that much John based on your comment. Either that or you’re quite young. The senior F/As that you speak of come from the days of carving chateaubriand in the aisle, serving caviar and canapés off 3 tiered carts and decorating cabins/lavs with fresh flowers. We could do full meal services in 50 minutes hand running coach on a 727 and full DC-10 beverage service in 35 min between AUS-DFW....

      I really don’t think you fly that much John based on your comment. Either that or you’re quite young. The senior F/As that you speak of come from the days of carving chateaubriand in the aisle, serving caviar and canapés off 3 tiered carts and decorating cabins/lavs with fresh flowers. We could do full meal services in 50 minutes hand running coach on a 727 and full DC-10 beverage service in 35 min between AUS-DFW. We miss those days with beautiful services. There are Junior F/As today that aren’t happy and think 2 beverage services in 3 hours can’t be done. Seriously. You are way off base. You have a VERY biased comment. I don’t care what company you work for or what position you hold, it seems as if people over 50 are looked at as too old and time to be put out to pasture. Over 60, forget it no matter how much experience you have. It’s a shame Americans don’t honor their older workers as some countries do.

    6. Goforride New Member

      And it's a good question. For some reason, the public seems to think it has something to say about the relationships between third parties in some industries.

      The public seems to think they are an interested party to Amazon, but not the Steelworkers Union.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Never In Doubt Guest

Translation: I cared enough to read and comment, and I didn’t like it.

5
Dempseyzdad Member

The rules are in black and white...until they're not. Which is the whole point. Please, unless you are a current or former in-flight employee of this airline, leave YOUR propaganda out of the conversation.

4
Scudder Gold

DL's employees have effectively free-loaded off the backs of other companys' union members who have set the bar for pay and work rules.

3
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