Over the last 12-months, we’ve dedicated a fair amount of space to write about the American Airlines new uniform scandal. In case you’ve been living under a rock, American launched its first new uniform for 25 years in September 2016. The idea had been to herald in a new era, or as the company called it, ‘the new American’ – a culmination of the merger between AA and USAirways.
But things didn’t go quite to plan – soon after the uniform was rolled out, frontline staff and in particular flight attendants started to report a number of symptomatic reactions they were suffering from wearing the new uniform. Skin rashes, hives, breathing difficulties and headaches were amongst a list of reactions reported by American staffers.
Since September 2016, over 4,523 flight attendants out of the approximate 20,000 working for American have reported suffering a reaction to the uniform to their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).
APFA was quick to press American for change and the company was forced to introduce a number of stop-gap measures as the crisis nearly spiralled out of control. The uniform was even tested for chemicals on several occasions but nothing out of the ordinary for clothing production was found.
Nonetheless, American eventually agreed to ditch its current uniform supplier and develop a new uniform with Lands’ End – that’s due to be rolled out at some point next year.
At this point, you might think the story would come to a natural conclusion but now a separate union which represents staff at American subsidiaries Envoy, PSA and Piedmont has put the company and uniform supplier Twin Hill on notice of its intent to sue.
The Association of Flight Attendants has said its own chemical testing found the substance Formaldehyde in some uniform items which is then released from the fabric during normal wear and inhaled by the wearer. The union says Formaldehyde can have carcinogenic properties which American has failed to warn its staff about.
Using California’s Proposition 65 or ‘Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986’, the union intends to sue American and the uniform supplier for violating a requirement to warn workers about exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer.
The union says it wants American to take immediate action and believes the route to a new uniform with Lands’ End is a process that will take too long. American and Twin Hill have been given 60 days to “take action on the issue or face a lawsuit”.
Watch this space.