Flight attendants at a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines which operates regional services under the American Eagle brand are threatening to cause ‘chaos’ with plans afoot to hold a strike vote after three years of stalled pay talks proved fruitless.
Strike ballots will be sent out later this month to around 300 flight attendants employed by Piedmont Airlines with a count set to get underway on October 21. If flight attendants vote in favor of a strike, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) could ask the National Mediation Board to declare contract negotiations deadlocked.
That would release both sides into a 30-day cooling-off period which could then give flight attendants the right to stage a strike. It is almost unheard of for the NMB to authorize a strike and AFA says it remains hopeful that it can win a pay rise for its members without going that far.
If it does go that far, however, AFA says it would it would deploy its trademarked strike strategy known as CHAOS – Create havoc around our system – which involves the union deciding when, where and how to strike with zero warning given to passengers or management.
The union could stage a strike on just one flight or across the entire network, making it almost impossible for airline management to plan. As a result, a strike on a single strike could lead to widespread network disruption and cause knock-on effects to AA’s mainline operation.
“We kept the planes flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and saved Piedmont and the entire American Airlines Group through the Payroll Support Program which helped American with billions of dollars in labor costs,” said AFA Piedmont President Keturah Johnson.
“The thanks we get is management demanding concessions. This must stop. Piedmont Flight Attendants cannot afford to work at Piedmont. Its time management recognizes Flight Attendants and pays us a living-wage.”
Piedmont’s flight attendants were enraged last month after the airline offered a bumper pay rise to pilots which could see some rake in as much as $180,000 in bonuses alone.
Meanwhile, Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) says some flight attendants are struggling to even get to work because traveling costs are too prohibitive.
Unlike mainline flight attendants, Piedmont’s flight attendants didn’t even have any pandemic-related pay protections until earlier this year when the union went public about the situation.
Along with Piedmont flight attendants earning significantly less than their peers at other airlines, contract talks have also stalled on protecting work rules and achieving security in retirement according to the flight attendant union.
In an internal memo, AFA described Piedmont’s current offer as “insulting” and said “poverty wages” forced the union to move to a strike vote.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.