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Flight Attendant Unions Return to Negotiating Tables This Week

Flight attendant unions return to bargaining tables this week, among them the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union which represents over 27,000 American Airlines flight attendants. APFA continue mediated discussions this week despite having seriously ramped up efforts to enact strike action in the week before, prompting the question: are flight attendant unions causing more problems than they’re offering solutions? 


APFA initially increased pressure for strike action at the start of last week, following calls from a group of bipartisan lawmakers for the National Mediation Board (NMB) to help flight attendants achieve labor deals back in May.  


On Wednesday, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom sent out in response a video message to flight attendants offering them an immediate 17% pay rise. APFA swfitly rejected management’s offer, instead launching their ‘Strike Command Centre’ (SCC) into action. 

APFA describe their SCC as a resource to prepare for potential strike action.

The union have had to tread a particularly careful line, however, to avoid unsolicited strike action from American Airlines flight attendants. This would dissolve any progress made so far. 


Carrying out strike action is no easy feat for flight attendant unions. Being bound by the Railway Labor Act, unions must first obtain permission from the National Mediation Board (NMB) to be released into the 30-day cooling-off period that is necessary before entering a strike period. In other words, flight attendants cannot simply stage a walkout.  


Since voting in favor of authorizing strike action back in August 2023, APFA have made two unsuccessful requests to be released from mediation already. 


Now, even despite their increasing efforts to push for strike action, they remain engaged in mediated talks under the NMB’s direction – talks which the union have pessimistically described as a “last-ditch” attempt. 


Likewise, United Airlines have returned to the negotiating table this week, following two years of labor disputes, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA). 


AFA have also returned to contract discussions on behalf of Alaska Airlines flight attendants this week, after telling its dues-paying members from Alaska Airlines last week that “if management won’t make the deal, we’re preparing for next steps under the Railway Labor Act,” which ultimately could mean a strike. 


Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, AFA have organized yet another ‘Worldwide Flight Attendant Day of Action’, set to take place this Thursday, June 13.  

In a message to its dues-paying members, AFA make the following rousing statement: 

“Together, we’ll pressure management and show the flying public that we’ll do whatever it takes to raise the standards for our careers. No matter what uniform we wear, we’ve earned the long-term security, benefits, flexibility, dignity, and respect that come with a strong contract. We won’t wait! It’s time for airline management to pay up and get these contracts done.” 


The next week may well be decisive for flight attendant unions, especially in the case of APFA. However, if past efforts are anything to go by, their task looks far from complete, with the fate of their contract resting in the hands of the NMB.  


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