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United Airlines Infuriates Powerful Flight Attendant Union By Firing Two Union Reps Over Mask Dispute

United Airlines Infuriates Powerful Flight Attendant Union By Firing Two Union Reps Over Mask Dispute

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United Airlines has taken the “unbelievable” step of firing two key union reps following a string of recent dismissals of veteran crew members, the powerful Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) blasted in a recent update to its members.

The union’s general counsel, Joe Burns wrote to the airline on Wednesday, warning: “I am in the strongest possible terms urging United management to refrain from raking further action in this matter.”

“The potential damage here threatens to undermine the collaborative relationship that worked so well to get us through the largest crisis ever facing United Airlines and the industry. What we accomplished together in the face of COVID should not so easily be cast aside.”

Tensions between the two sides has been steadily building since last June when the union filed a lawsuit against United alleging that the airline had been “unlawfully interrogating” flight attendants at its Washington DC base.

The dispute started after two veteran union reps were put under investigation by the airline and threatened with disciplinary action because they questioned their colleagues about a complaint made by a coworker.

The union was accused of retaliating against a junior flight attendant who made the complaint while covering for a long-serving crew member.

The latest firings, however, are believed to be connected to a mask dispute in which two flight attendants who are union reps were photographed unmasked during a flight in 2020. The flight attendants claimed the masks fell off while they were sleeping but when United launched an investigation, the union is alleged to have obstructed the inquiry.

“For months, the United Master Executive Council and the AFA International Office have encouraged United management to find a solution to the underlying dispute,” wrote AFA’s international president Sara Nelson in an update to United’s flight attendants.

The memo was cosigned by Ken Diaz, the president of AFA’s United branch.

“The action taken by United management makes today a terrible day,” the memo continued. “Management has even gone so far as to try to tell us who will represent our Members. This is unprecedented and unacceptable.”

In an emailed statement addressing the June 2021 lawsuit, a spokesperson for United Airlines told us: “While we can’t comment on the specifics of this ongoing matter, let us be clear that United will not tolerate retaliation against employees by anyone – including union representatives – for making a good faith report of a safety violation.”

“We respect the right of AFA, and all unions, to advocate for employees, which is why we would expect them to join us in investigating claims of retaliation raised by one of their members.”

View Comments (5)
  • if this is a first offense I would think they would be consuled with time off , a letter in their file , a repeater offender with attendance issues , with prior write up then their gone.

    • This article doesn’t explain the whole story well. The flight attendants that were fired were not fired over the mask incident. They were fired because they retaliated against the flight attendant that made the initial complaint about 2 other flight attendants not wearing masks. Breaking mask policy=slap on the wrist. Retaliation against another employee= termination.

  • I fear the writer of this story is an AFA supporter and intentionally left out key details to infer what was a negative sorry about AFA to a positive one. I am saddened to see this sensationalized story from this website.

  • The junior German Speaker F/A should be fired for taking pics of his fellow F/As to get others fired so he can up his seniority. The two reps that got fired were wonderful F/A for many many years. The company is letting two great F/A go and keeping a terrible, selfish ,unhonest person on the line,, shame on them. Was with UA for 50 yrs and so disappointed in them now! Loved my years flying, but not with people like him!

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