On March 3rd, American Airlines’ flight attendants union and company managers requested mediation from the National Mediation Board, hoping to resolve an ongoing contract negotiation standoff. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has been negotiating a new contract since December 2019.
Julie Hedrick, president of the National Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said the union was eager to come to a resolution.
“We are entering a critical period in our bargaining of a new contract,” Hedrick said. “We have had productive discussions at the bargaining table…and are prepared to work with the National Mediation Board to bring these negotiations to a close and secure a contract with much needed improvements for 25,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants.”
The APFA’s national communications chair, Paul Hartshorn, Jr., said they want to secure better pay and work-life balance for the union’s members.
He said that flight attendants are back to flying the same hours as before COVID but with a reduced workforce.
“Staffing was reduced, flight attendants are working more flights per day, working longer hours per day,” Hartshorn said.
In the last quarter, American Airlines reported a net income of $127 million. For the full year, its 2022 net income was $803 million.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants includes more than 23,000 members at American.
Paul Hartshorn, Jr., the APFA’s national communications chair, explained that flight attendants are working more flights and longer hours per day due to reduced staffing and are seeking better pay and work-life balance.
On average, union contracts in the airline industry can take several years to negotiate. Factors such as industry conditions, economic stability, and collective bargaining agreements can impact the length of negotiations.
The negotiation process can involve multiple rounds of proposals and counterproposals. It may also involve the assistance of a federal mediator, as is the case with American and Southwest’s flight attendant unions.
The behavior of executives at American Airlines is the latest of many such examples of management taking a high-handed stance against their workers.
Over the past year, airline industry workers, including cabin crew, pilots, ground handlers, and air traffic controllers, have faced increasingly contentious and deliberately provocative company executives.
Recently, pilots at FedEx have begun openly discussing the possibility of a strike action at the shipping company.
On February 17th, the leaders of the pilot’s union at FedEx unanimously passed a resolution that authorizes Captain Chris Norman, the FedEx ALPA Chair, to call for a vote on whether to authorize a strike. This decision has received support from ALPA President Captain Jason Ambrosi.
Before a strike can happen, the National Mediation Board (NMB) would need to release both parties from mediation. Following this, a 30-day cooling-off period would need to take place, after which both parties would be free to exercise self-help, which may include a strike by the union or a lockout by the company.
FedEx pilots have been trying to reason with company executives since May 2021, to no avail.
The Southwest Airlines flight attendants union, TWU Local 556, also requested a federal mediator this past summer. Southwest’s pilots have threatened to vote to strike in May while American Airlines is still negotiating with its pilots’ union.
Seven separate workgroups at United Airlines, including pilots, gate and ground agents, trainers, load planners, and security guards, have also seen contract talks stall over management refusals to match new industry standards for pay, job security, and other benefits that have become normal for airline work.
The Machinists Union is part of a coalition of unions at United Airlines, including the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Air Line Pilots Association, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.