American Airlines on the Brink of Strike Before Busy Summer Travel Season

American Airlines is veering towards a strike by flight attendants ahead of the busy summer travel season.

The current contract expired in 2019, and cost-of-living adjustments have stayed stagnant at rates negotiated in 2014.

Whatever you think of unions, workers are suffering in the Biden economy.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) issued a statement to members advising them to prepare for a strike.

Association Negotiations Update #56
Intensive Mediation Concludes With No Agreement;
Flight Attendants Should Prepare For a Strike

Two weeks of intensive mediation at the National Mediation Board (NMB) offices in Washington, D.C., failed to produce an agreement with American Airlines. These sessions followed three weeks of mediation in DFW. Per the request of the NMB, we cannot release particular details. We remain apart on the key economics of the deal plus the company’s completely unacceptable demand for scheduling concessions.

More information about the status of bargaining and the upcoming 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.

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

Our right to strike under the Railway Labor Act has not changed. However, we cannot strike until released by the NMB and following a thirty-day cooling-off period. There must be no unauthorized or illegal work actions, including but not limited to work slowdown/stoppages or 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.

The company, however, remains tone-deaf. For Flight Attendant Appreciation Day, the airline provided cold sandwiches with a side of low wages.


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A post shared by American Airlines (@americanair)

The comments on Instagram were brutal:

“Appreciate your FA’s with that industry leading contract you promised!!!”

“Why don’t you post about the last 4-5 days operation? About the FAs stranded literally all over the country with no hotel, sitting on hold with tracking/Scheduling for hours and hours all while not being paid???”

“I’m on vacation fielding texts and calls from FAs since 3am the past few days because you willfully left them stranded, lost in the system, abandoned and unsupported. We don’t need an IG shoutout we need reliable infrastructure and consistency from the company we work for. Step it up and for the love of god leave the stale cookies and coagulated ham sandwiches in the drafts folder next time. Pay us what you owe us.”

Some directly called out American Airlines CEO Robert Isom, who received new compensation that soared to over $31 million in 2023.

“@robert_isom Honest question; Do you think you work 2,100 times smarter or harder than a flight attendant does? I don’t think that’s physically possible considering we are worked to our absolute limits. 17 hour days on 6 hours of rest aren’t even uncommon. So why do you pay yourself over 2,100 times what a flight attendant salary is? Your flight attendants want to move on with their lives, buy a car, buy a home, start families, not have anxiety in the grocery store because we can’t afford food.”

“YOU HAVE FAILED US. @robert_isom@americanair Signed, 27,000+ Flight Attendants who respectfully don’t need your degrading ham sandwiches today but would really prefer a contract. Thanks.”

Under the Railway Labor Act, the National Mediation Board does not often allow strikes, but a bipartisan group of 168 lawmakers has urged the Board  “to use all of the tools at its disposal to encourage the resolution of these negotiations.”

We are writing to express our concern about the number of ongoing, protracted contract negotiations between parties before the National Mediation Board. As you know, there are thousands of workers across the country who are currently being subjected to drawn out contract negotiations, and we urge you to use the tools at your disposal to ensure the timely resolution of these cases.

First, we want to acknowledge the work of the National Mediation Board (NMB) in dealing with the unprecedented level of bargaining in recent years due to pent-up demand from delayed bargaining during COVID. With the NMB’s assistance, most of these negotiations are settled, demonstrating the professionalism and hard work of the Board and your staff. We are committed to providing you the resources to do your job moving forward.

However, we are concerned about the increasing number of contract negotiations before the NMB that are being unfairly drawn out to the detriment of workers. We understand that there are certain ongoing negotiations that have dragged on for as long as five years, and we have heard from workers who are justifiably concerned that they are being subjected to unfair delays in the bargaining process. For example, we know that over 100,000 flight attendants are currently in contract negotiations, many of whom are working under the terms of contracts that are now several years past the contract amendable dates. Furthermore, many of these workers were on the frontlines throughout the Covid pandemic and made countless sacrifices to keep their companies financially afloat, and it is important that they are able to reap the benefits of the collective bargaining process in a timely manner.

We are also concerned that the reason for these increasingly prolonged negotiations is due in part to the recent inability of workers to avail themselves of self-help options to facilitate labor disputes. It has long been understood that the best way to achieve labor peace is through collective bargaining backed by the threat of “self-help” for both parties, including the right to strike for workers. Indeed, workers across a range of professions have secured groundbreaking new contracts in recent years, many of which were won due to workers’ credible ability to exercise self-help options.

But, over recent decades, workers’ ability to utilize self-help options has been eroded. In fact, there have there been only two releases to strike of airline workers since 2006, the last being Spirit Airlines Pilots in 2010, compared to dozens in the 1980s and 1990s. Thus, management has little incentive to reach agreements with their workers in a timely manner and many companies have used this development to their advantage,improvements in the lives of tens of thousands of frontline workers.

Accordingly, we urge the Board to use all of the tools at its disposal to encourage the resolution of disputes with ratified agreements that are long overdue.

Thank you for your diligent work to resolve disputes and please continue that work knowing that we support your efforts and use of the statute to encourage settlement of contract disputes.

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Thanks for sharing!