The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents crew members at American Airlines, says it is using a lead negotiator from a sister union in ongoing bargaining talks with the airline.
American Airlines and APFA are currently in federally mediated contract talks as they try to reach an agreement on a number of key issues, including bumper pay rises demanded by the union in long-running contract negotiations.
In normal times, APFA would rely on its own negotiators in secret talks with American Airlines but the union now admits that the “days of thinking we can simply bargain alone are over”.
Explaining the decision to ask for help from another union, APFA says flight attendants from multiple airlines are in a “shared struggle” to “break out of a shared industry-wide economic framework that seeks to limit what Flight Attendants can earn”.
As a result, APFA has accepted help from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which is by far the largest flight attendant union in the United States and represents crew members at United Airlines, Alaska, Frontier and several other carriers.
AFA offered the assistance of Joe Burns, an attorney who has “decades of experience bargaining labor contracts”, to become APFA’s lead negotiator and overall strategist.
It was an offer that APFA readily accepted, admitting that they “couldn’t find a better negotiator”.
“We are deeply appreciative to AFA- CWA for making him available, as his decades of experience and expertise simply cannot be recreated,” the union told its members in a recent memo.
APFA has also received organizing and media training from the rival union and says that it will need the support of the “entire labor movement” if it is to win its fight with American Airlines.
The union has demanded an immediate 35% pay raise, along with a 6% pay raise for each year of a five-year contract. American Airlines, however, is currently only willing to offer an 11% raise and then 2% each year for the length of the contract.
The company’s offer would peg wages for AA flight attendants against their peers at Delta but labor activists argue that the non-unionized workforce at Delta is holding back pay raises for flight attendants across the industry.
Flight attendants at American Airlines have overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike action if the airline isn’t willing to meet their demands, but to do so will require permission from the federal government.
It remains unclear whether the National Mediation Board would release AA’s flight attendants into a 30-day cooling-off period, which precedes strike action but in the meantime, talks continue in an attempt to break the deadlock.
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.