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American Airlines Flight Attendants' Union Pushes for Strike Action

On Friday, May 31, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) union, which represents over 27,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, released a statement updating its dues-paying members on their most recent set of mediated talks in Washington, D.C., which occurred within the two weeks either side of Memorial Day Weekend. 

 

The union now claims that “two weeks of intensive mediation at the National Mediation Board (NMB) offices ... failed to produce an agreement with American Airlines.” 

 

Unsuccessful talks have become an all-too-common theme in this ongoing saga. These failed round of talks in the capital immediately followed another three weeks of mediation in Dallas-Fort Worth beforehand. 


American Airlines flight attendants have been without a raise since 2019, pre the COVID-19 pandemic.

APFA hold that, as “per the request of the NMB,” they “cannot release particular details” of negotiations; however, they declared that they “remain apart on the key economics of the deal plus the company’s completely unacceptable demand for scheduling concessions.” 

 

They claim – somewhat vaguely – that more information about the status of bargaining and next steps will be “forthcoming.” 

 

“We believe the Board will call the parties in for one last ditch effort in the next two weeks but that has not been set. We believe we will have more information from the NMB on Monday and will send an update. If we are unable to reach an agreement, the matter will be before the NMB to determine if we will be released. While these delays are frustrating, we also know that the company’s ability to stall these negotiations is rapidly reaching an end,” APFA continued.  

 

Without publishing any details of negotiations, it is difficult to ascertain whether APFA are leveraging a lack of information to pile further pressure on American Airlines in the public eye, or they are being genuine.  

 

Moreover, how can union dues-paying flight attendants be expected to rally for a strike without proper knowledge of a negotiation – what might currently be on the table? 

 

The key message of APFA’s statement to flight attendants is then planted in bold halfway through their message: 


“All Flight Attendants need to prepare for a strike. Strike handbooks will be mailed to your address on file with APFA.” 


However, the union still remain bound by the Railway Labor Act and must resign to more mediated negotiations with management under the supervision of the NMB – if indeed the NMB continue to direct both bargaining parties towards finding a middle ground. 


American Airlines flight attendants first voted in favor of strike action with their union back in August 2023. They are still yet to reach a deal with airline management.

Furthermore, flight attendants cannot actually strike until after being released into a 30-day cooling-off period, as per the Railway Labor Act.  


Despite their stirring message, APFA has to be particularly careful not to push its flight attendants into rallying for any unauthorized or illegal work actions, such as engaging in work slowdown/stoppages or in a concerted action of refusing to pick up open trips.  


“Please do not jeopardize yourself or our collective efforts by advocating for or engaging in unauthorized or illegal activities,” APFA caveats the end of its message.  


By constantly upping its threats of strike action, the union is walking a potentially dangerous line and must be careful not to aggravate its dues-paying members into unsolicited action.  


Meanwhile, APFA clearly remain no closer to a deal with airline management. The saga is slowly becoming a case study for the failure of flight attendant unions, with corporate management being able to continue dragging out talks under mediation. 

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