The symbolism couldn’t be clearer or more deliberate – a major flight attendant union that represents over 30,000 flight crew at American Airlines is due to hold one of the biggest protests the airline has ever seen on the same date as the start of a five-day strike in 1993. Flight attendants are due to gather at 15 airports across the American Airlines network, including Miami and New York JFK on the 18th November to call on their employer to “wAAke up”.
Trouble has been brewing for some time and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and its members has a long list of grievances with American. The dispute includes alleged contract violations, concerns about a new sickness and performance policy, as well as problems with a new scheduling computer.
Then, of course, there are the “toxic” uniforms (over 4,500 flight attendants have now reported reactions to the uniform), soaring reserve numbers, and allegations that a so-called “Optimizer” scheduling computer is creating inhumane rosters that don’t allow for proper overnight rest or a work-life balance.
Thousands of flight attendants are expected to gather at what are being dubbed “informational picketing” events on Sunday 18th November between 11am and 1pm – and while they are far from an actual strike, the pickets may well remind senior American managers of a 1993 strike which effectively shut down the airline’s operations and led to the Clinton administration intervening to get the two sides negotiating again.
“It’s unbelievable that we are here twenty-five years later still fighting for fair and equitable working conditions for our Flight Attendants,” explained APFA’s new national president Lori Bassani. She has previously suggested that all options will remain on the table, including strike action should American not yield to the union’s demands.
APFA has already informed American that it intends to enter new contract negotiations early.
Protests are due to take place at the following airports: Boston (BOS), Charlotte Douglas (CLT), Washington (DCA), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), New York JFK (JFK), Miami (MIA), Chicago (ORD), Pittsburgh (PIT), Philadephia (PHL), Phoenix (PHX), Raleigh Durham (RDU), San Francisco (SFO), St Louis (STL).
A planned protest at La Guardia (LGA) was denied a permit due to ongoing construction work.
Flight attendants are being asked to turn up in uniform – preferably their old uniform if they still have it, although there are some restrictions. As this isn’t a formal strike, no flight attendant who is due to fly will be picketing and those on sick leave will also be barred. In addition, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) have told its members who might want to show support, that those in probationary status cannot attend.