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United Airlines and The Flight Attendant Union Go to Court Over Crew Member Sackings

United Airlines and The Flight Attendant Union Go to Court Over Crew Member Sackings

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United Airlines and the flight attendant union have become embroiled in an increasingly hostile war of words over the Chicago-based carrier’s decision to sack two veteran crew members who were also reps for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).

Justifying its decision to fire the two long-serving flight attendants, United said it would not tolerate retaliation especially against employees who had raised safety concerns. The union believes its reps were justified in their actions but the courts have so far sided with United on the issue.

The spat started in late 2020 when a flight attendant made a complaint against two of their work colleagues who they claimed didn’t wear their face masks during the rest breaks. A safety investigation was opened and the flight attendants involved were called in for questioning.

The union also got on the case and started its own investigation with the two now-fired flight attendant reps interviewing the different parties including the crew member who made the original complaint.

United believes these interviews amounted to retaliation and demanded to know what had been said during the union meetings. The union filed a lawsuit against United in an attempt to block the airline from investigating the reps but a federal judge sided with United and dismissed the case.

Following the conclusion of the investigation, United has now taken what AFA describes as the “unbelievable” step of dismissing the two union reps.

In an unusual move, United’s head of inflight John Slater wrote to the airline’s entire flight attendant workforce on Thursday explaining the company’s side of the story. Amongst other issues, he claims the union reps made “completely false” counter-allegations against the reporting flight attendant.

“These false reports resulted in a number of investigations over several months. In these investigations, flight attendants revealed that the information against the reporting flight attendant was solicited by the two union representatives,” Slater wrote.

“We do not tolerate retaliation, period. Under the United-AFA CBA and established Company policies, United must investigate allegations of retaliation. Moreover, ANY employee engaged in retaliation will be investigated”.

The union has since fired back, claiming the facts as presented by United were “an incomplete and company-oriented perspective on the matter.”

“While United management claims to be against intimidation, they have no problem publicly going after long time Flight Attendants who received a sham investigation from the company before pushing forward with termination proceedings.”

In a memo, AFA urged its members to deal with disputes between flight attendants through its Professional Standards Program rather than reporting issues to the airline.

The union continues to pursue a lawsuit against United in federal court in which it will be claimed the airline broke the Railway Labor Act. Court dates have not yet been set.

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