American Airlines Flight Attendants Vote on Strike Authorization.

American Airlines

Flight attendants at American Airlines have begun voting on whether to authorize a strike, after failing to obtain a pay raise in over two years and being understaffed since the start of the pandemic. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents over 24,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, has requested authorization to call a strike. The vote will remain open until August 29th, and if the majority of the union members vote in favor of the strike authorization, the National Mediation Board (NMB) would have to decide whether to grant a release to strike.

Better Pay and Scheduling

American Airlines flight attendants have been in negotiations for a new contract for over four years, with pay and scheduling being the key areas of concern. The APFA has emphasized the importance of a strike, as flight attendants have not received a pay raise since January 2019, and have been understaffed since the pandemic began. The union argues that forcing flight attendants to work understaffed places an undue burden on them and their passengers.

American Airlines
Image by: Mingfei S

Union Strikes in the Past

This is not the first time that American Airlines flight attendants have threatened a strike. In April, nine informational pickets took place nationwide, and this marked the third time since November 2020 that flight attendants have protested. In March 2021, the APFA filed for federal mediation with the NMB to advance talks of a new contract and ultimately reach an agreement.

Legal Measures for a Strike

If the majority of the union members vote in favor of the strike authorization, it would not necessarily mean that a strike is imminent or confirmed. Instead, it would indicate that union members would be in favor of the APFA calling a strike if the negotiations take a pause. Due to the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which was expanded to airlines in 1936, several additional legal measures would need to take place before a strike could occur. Flight attendants are not allowed to protest by refusing to perform work duties or coordinating to call in sick, and the NMB has discretion over whether to grant a release to strike.

Impact on Passengers

Passengers flying with American Airlines will not be affected by the strike vote itself or the pickets at the airline’s hubs. Union rules only permit workers not scheduled for a shift to participate in any picketing activity. The APFA has warned its members against engaging in “illegal self-help tactics,” as it could put their jobs at risk and result in the union being fined.

American Airlines
Image by: LaCurtain

The flight attendants’ strike authorization vote highlights the ongoing issues with pay and staffing for American Airlines’ inflight workers. While a strike is not imminent, it could be a potential outcome if negotiations fail to produce a new contract that addresses these issues. The APFA has emphasized the importance of a strike as a means of pressuring American Airlines to improve its pay and staffing policies and recognizes it as a proven formula for reaching an agreement. However, the Railway Labor Act adds a layer of complexity to the process, and several legal measures would need to take place before a strike could occur.

Do you think American Airlines flight attendants are justified in their demands for better pay and staffing? Why or why not?

Also, you might be interested in reading: The other side of being a “Flight Attendant”

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