It looks like American Airlines flight attendants won’t be going on strike anytime soon…
In this post:
National Mediation Board denies strike request
For several years, American Airlines flight attendants have been in negotiations for a new contract. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and the company’s management are worlds apart in terms of what they’re willing to accept. The union is looking for big pay raises, given that other work groups have received big raises, and the cost of living has increased considerably in recent years.
Meanwhile management is offering marginal pay increases, which the union isn’t willing to accept. The National Mediation Board (NMB) has gotten involved in the negotiations, but even so, there hasn’t been much progress. The APFA recently requested to be allowed to go on strike — this needs to be approved by the NMB, and then is subject to a 30-day cooling off period. Since the request was made in mid-November, it’s clear that the intent was to go on strike around the holidays.
There’s some bad news for flight attendants and good news for holiday travelers on that front — the NMB has denied the APFA’s request for American flight attendants to go on strike. Here’s the message that the union has shared with members:
At this time, the National Mediation Board (NMB) has refused our request for release. The Railway Labor Act (RLA) is supposed to protect us, yet here we are, fighting tooth and nail for what we rightfully deserve.
We strongly disagree with this decision. The Company has had our economic proposal since March, and has refused to respond to our comprehensive counter proposals since September. They have been stonewalling us, offering nothing but a single, rigid economic framework that does not address our current economic needs. This is not negotiations; it is a mockery of our efforts.
American Airlines management thinks they can evade the issue, but they are mistaken. We will intensify our pressure on the company but also assert our rights under the RLA. Rather than do the right thing for the Flight Attendants, the company is attempting to drag out bargaining. We are not backing down!
Over the last twenty years, the NMB has only released two groups of airline workers. As we have stated previously, we believe that the standard applied serves to benefit employers and is not consistent with the provisions or intent of the Railway Labor Act.
We have a right to strike under the Railway Labor Act. For far too long, airline management has exploited workers, funneling profits into their own pockets. The Railway Labor Act was meant to protect us, the workforce, yet it’s been twisted into a tool for corporate greed.
The NMB indicated that our mediation session scheduled for December 12th-14th will take place as scheduled. If they fail again to present a realistic proposal to resolve these negotiations, we will reiterate our request to be released.
Unity is our greatest weapon. Let us direct our collective anger where it truly belongs – at the feet of American Airlines management.
I’m curious how this situation plays out
I see both sides here, with the fundamental problem being that the airline industry is just a really bad business.
I absolutely understand why flight attendants want pay raises, and I think they deserve them. Flight attendants are currently poorly paid, and the cost of living has increased considerably in recent years. Flight attendants aren’t trying to get rich, they’re simply trying to get by. As one flight attendant comments:
I’m not going to be able to afford to stay at this job long enough to see a new contract at this rate. You guys I literally cannot afford to work here anymore.
But here’s the issue:
- There’s a never-ending pool of applicants who want to become flight attendants, given the perceived glamor of it; airlines are largely incentivized to keep a revolving door of flight attendants, since junior flight attendants cost less than senior ones (since the pay scale reflects years of service)
- Flight attendants have less bargaining power than pilots, since there has been a pilot shortage, and the 1,500-hour rule means that you can’t quickly create a pipeline of additional pilots
- I also understand why airline management wants to keep labor costs down, because the airline industry is just such a bad business; American had to give its pilots massive pay raises, and airline cost structures are getting to the point where you have to wonder at what point a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing could be on the horizon for a major US carrier with any sort of a downturn
American Airlines flight attendants were looking to go on strike, as their contract negotiations stalled. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants requested to be released from mediation by the National Mediation Board, which would have triggered a 30-day cooling off period, after which point flight attendants could strike.
The government has denied the request of the union, which is leaving flight attendants frustrated. Negotiations are expected to continue, though it seems that management and the union are so far apart in terms of what they’re willing to accept.
What do you make of this American flight attendant bargaining update?