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Flight Attendants Union Head Sara Nelson’s Latest Defeat: AFA-CWA Reforms Shot Down, Insiders Retain Control

Sara Nelson’s flight attendants union AFA-CWA doesn’t allow crewmembers to directly elect its Master Executive Council officers and international officers.


This is something that cabin crew at United, Alaska, Frontier, Spirit and American’s wholly-owned regional carriers know – they vote for officers of their local council only, and it’s the insiders who elect the union’s top leaders. It’s not something that crew considering a union at Delta, for instance, probably realize.


Ms. Nelson took the issue to its annual board of directors meeting late last month. She lost on voice votes. She said this was “about putting power in each individual member’s hands.”


Instead, union power will remain in the hands of insiders.


Nelson argued for these changes to make the union more democratic. The implication, of course, is that she believes AFA-CWA is undemocratic.


This is another loss in a long string of errors and failures for the flight attendants union head. Nelson declared that the only way to get boarding pay – calculating flight attendant pay including time spent boarding – was to organize non-union Delta and non-union SkyWest. She was wrong. The only airlines that now do boarding pay are… Delta and SkyWest.


The first unionized flight attendants to get boarding pay will be at American Airlines… represented by a different union. Sara Nelson has never gotten this for her members even once non-union Delta started doing it her team didn’t win this. Eventually United’s AFA-CWA will have to have a me-too contract with boarding pay, copying American.


She endorsed rule changes to ban lap infants fromairlines, pushing kids out of planes and into cars, making them less safe. That wasn’t included in FAA Reauthorization.


Her own union reports that it has overwhelmingly failed to help United flight attendants feel valued at work or have their issues resolved.


Ms. Nelson advocated arming flight attendants with tasers to keep passengers in line. She also wanted to make leisure travel illegal during the pandemic, permanently ban alcohol from planes, and argued that mask mandates should become entrenched like inflight smoking bans and TSA liquid rules.


Five years ago the New York Times dubbed her “America’s most powerful flight attendant.” Times have changed. She reportedly used to be able to bark orders at the former chairman of House Transportation. She was passed over to the lead the AFL-CIO. And now she doesn’t even get her way within her own union.


Her last major victory was securing massive pandemic-era taxpayer subsidies for airline shareholders, most of which didn’t even go to companies employing her members. Now it appears to me she’s lost face inside her own union, failing to secure changes she publicly endorsed.



This article originally appeared on View From The Wing

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