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United Airlines Flight Attendants Warned Not to Take Illegal ‘Self-Help’ Action Over Holiday Travel Period as Contract Talks Drag On

United Airlines Flight Attendants Warned Not to Take Illegal ‘Self-Help’ Action Over Holiday Travel Period as Contract Talks Drag On

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Flight attendants at United Airlines have been warned not to take illegal ‘self-help’ action against the Chicago-based carrier as negotiations for a new contract drag on with seemingly little progress.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) is concerned that some crew members may take it upon themselves to put pressure on United by organizing mass sick-outs or refusing to perform certain duties.

Other well-known methods of illegal ‘self-help’ action include flight attendants giving away buy-on-board food and drink to passengers for free, working to rule or refusing to pick up certain mandatory duties.

Importantly, the union has warned flight attendants that it’s not only illegal to actively take part in this form of ‘self-help’ but even discussing it on social media platforms could result in crew members being terminated and the union being slapped with a big fine.

The warning is very similar to a notice sent to flight attendants at American Airlines earlier this year after crew members at the Fort Worth-based airline voted overwhelmingly in favor of taking strike action in stalled contract talks.

In the case of American Airlines, the flight attendant union has now requested permission to go on strike by being released into a 30-day cooling-off period. Permission must be granted by an independent federal agency known as the National Mediation Board (NMB), and it is ultimately their decision whether flight attendants will be allowed to take ‘self-help’ action.

At United Airlines, however, flight attendants haven’t even been balloted on whether they would support a strike, so the possibility of strike action is a very long way off.

Last month, AFA United president Ken Diaz said the union was pushing for a “near-term resolution” in the protracted talks but that they would be prepared to hold a strike vote if significant progress wasn’t made.

In the past, AFA has used a trademarked strike tactic known as CHAOS, which stands for ‘Create Havoc Around Our System’ and is based on carrying out intermittent strikes whereby the airline and passengers don’t know where and when strike action will take place.

The strategy dates back to 1993 when AFA-represented flight attendants at Alaska Airlines went on strike after failed contract negotiations dragged on for more than three years.

CHAOS is designed to prevent airlines from simply training up head office staff to take on flight attendant duties because managers don’t know what flights or flights are going to be targeted until the very last minute.

Airlines have challenged the legality of CHAOS, but the courts have backed the right of intermittent striking. If the National Mediation Board approves the strike by American Airlines flight attendant, their union has promised to adopt similar tactics.

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