The union which represents flight attendants at American Airlines has again warned its members that they should not take part in illegal ‘self-help’ action in protracted contract negotiations unless and until the National Mediation Board releases flight attendants from a 30-day cooling-off period.
The most common form of self-help action is strike action, but there are other options available, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which listed several examples, such as crew members refusing to charge customers for buy-on-board purchases on AA flights.
Flight attendants could also refuse to perform certain duties, go sick en masse or work to rule, although APFA warns its members that even promoting this type of action remains illegal until the NMB rules that contract negotiations have failed and grants a release to strike.
APFA warns that the NMB has the ultimate power to decide if flight attendants should be released to conduct strike action even if talks break down.
“Individuals could face discipline, and the union could face injunctions and fines. This area of the law is not fair to workers, but it is a reality we must deal with,” the union said in a recent memo to dissuade its members from conducting their own self-help action.
“We plan to reach an agreement and do not need to put any Flight Attendants at risk. We also want to avoid giving the company leverage, so we must fight smart,” the memo continued.
This isn’t the first time that the union has had to warn flight attendants off conducting their own self-help. In February, a remarkably similar memo warned flight attendants that even suggesting self-help action on social media could land them in hot water.
Last week, the union approved a plan to hold a strike authorization vote as federal mediation gets underway to break a deadlock on several fronts of the contract talks – the most contentious of which is pay.
At a recent employee town hall, however, CEO Robert Isom suggested he was committed to reaching a deal through negotiation after he was put on the spot by the union and asked whether American Airlines would provide flight attendants with an industry-leading contract.
“When we end up with this, I can guarantee you that we will be with an industry-leading contract,” Isom said. “At the end of the day, when we sit down and compare purses with everyone else, you are not going to be behind,” he continued.
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.