Flight attendants at American Airlines have been warned not to engage in so-called ‘self-help’ tactics as contentious contract talks drag on at the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier.
A self-help strategy could see flight attendants work to rule, provide minimum levels of service to customers, or even refuse to perform specific duties altogether.Embed from Getty Images
Flight attendants could also work together to phone in sick en masse in an attempt to cripple the airline’s operation without actually going on strike.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents thousands of American Airlines crew members, has been attempting to ratchet up the pressure on management to secure contract improvements but the union has warned flight attendants not to take matters into their own hands.
In a recent memo, APFA said the two sides were about to enter a “critical phase” of negotiations as they start talks on pay improvements, including boarding pay.
Ahead of these make-or-break talks, the union has warned members that the negotiations are governed by the Railway Labor Act and have to follow a set process.
Although the Railway Labor Act has provisions for self-help tactics and strike action, the independent National Mediation Board must authorize this action. This can only happen after talks have officially broken down and attempts at mediation have failed.
As APFA points out, getting the authorization to carry out a strike from the National Mediation Board has traditionally “proven difficult to obtain” – which could, of course, make it attractive for some flight attendants to quietly take their own action.
In fact, there has already been anecdotal evidence of this happening already, but the flight attendant union is now warning its members not to get carried away.
“As negotiations heat up, all Flight Attendants must understand that it is illegal to engage in self-help prior to the end of a cooling-off period,” the memo continued.
“That means no calls to not pick up open time, refusing to perform duties, coordinating calling in sick, etc. Flight Attendants have been terminated at other carriers simply for posting or ‘liking’ such posts on social media.”
Initially, American Airlines could react to reports of unauthorized self-help action by obtaining an injunction against the union – action that the union says it doesn’t want to get “bogged down in”.
For now, APFA is sticking to its legal tactic of mass picketing events at airports across the U.S. while talks continue. The two sides have managed to agree on a number of items, although the parties remain far apart on some issues – pay talks could, however, prove the most contentious time in the negotiations.
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.
Unions will kill American Airlines as they did GM. I SAY GOOD RIDDANCE TO UNIONS!
Say good riddance to flight attendants and pilots only able to hire crappy workers or blacklisfed at other companies workers the union protects pilots from alot of things idk many who would’ve taken the job without somebody behind there back
Unions don’t seem to care who they hurt. Can you imagine them canceling a flight for no reason and you are going cross country to a mother’s funeral, child’s graduation, job interview, wedding, and more? Time to seriously get rid of unuins. If the employee(s) does not show up, find great people who will.
You sound selfish. What about the countless employees who are underpaid and exploited? And who miss those events with their family due to serving the general public at a company that doesn’t value them? There are always many sides to an issue. Although it is a certainly a privilege to be gainfully employed, that privilege comes with rights. People should be able to work in an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect and protected from corporate malfeasance. This is the ultimate goals of unions. You’re clearly not an employer but if you were I’d never want to work for someone like you.
Unions essentially created the big middle class of the last century. Also, without unions, it’s unlikely non-union workforces would enjoy the fair practices they do (i.e. family leave, health care benefits, 5-day work week, non-discrimination, etc.). I was anti-union until I started my airline career. Seeing the other perspective was very eye-opening.
Flight attendants deserve union protection. They are exploited, underpaid, and abused not only by their employer but the customers. Screw you all! See how far you fly without them! The plane can’t get off the ground without these people willing to be abused by you ingrates for crappy wages.
I agree with you fully. It’s not the Union, it’s American Airlines. People that want to see unions go away aren’t part of a good union. The problem is that so many unions don’t benefit the employee much. As for what the whiners & complainers think. They hate everything that ever gets posted. Just look at the reply’s every blog receives.
Sounds like you need a new career.
APFA and AA are too comfy in bed together. The best way to describe it – AA is the abuser – both mentally and psychologically. Sadly APFA is the enabler. “AA”PFA has made too many deals with the devil and the entire environment is toxic. IMO, I don’t see things getting better since Greg Smith was instrumental in the 737 Max fiasco at Boeing, he is just another out of touch executive. For those who haven’t watched Downfall on Netflix, your eyes will be wide opened to the culture of Greg Smith.
I flew AA last summer to Texas to visit my Son. Worst experience. I am 68 yrs old and have to wear oxygen. I called airlines 2wks in advance as instructed. They changed my seat to the very back of the plane. I was traveling with my 8yo and 12yo grandkids. I did carry on luggage plus had portable 02 concentrator. The stewardess on all flights were rude and not least bit helpful. On way home the AA plane was no show. Had to wait 5hrs at terminal only to be rerouted on united flight. The stewards were so polite and helpful and gave gift bag to kids plus sat me up front. What a difference. I told my son to never book me on AA again.
Can you give us some targeted dates that are in the mix?
That’s nice Jackie…people will just go to Southwest, or Delta, or United…but not the airline that treated them poorly. It’s a two way street. People aren’t as sympathetic to flight attendants who are rude and obnoxious. MOST PEOPLE are not a**holes and many won’t say a word. They just won’t come back for your sh**ty attitude and service. I’ve found the more pro-union, the bigger the attitude and sh**ty service. That’s in any industry!
I thought lack of service had already been going on for years