The union, which represents thousands of flight attendants at American Airlines, has revealed that federal mediators didn’t give a reason for refusing to release them into a 30-day cooling-off period which would precede a potential strike.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) for a release to strike on November 20 but little more than a week later, the board summarily rejected their plea.
Unlike many workers, airline employees cannot simply strike if contract talks stall and must first follow a lengthy process laid out in the Railway Labor Act. Ultimately, the NMB decides whether airline workers are allowed to strike, and they have to be satisfied that negotiations have failed.
The American Airlines flight attendant contract became amendable back in 2019, and despite a pandemic-induced break, talks between the Fort Worth-based carrier and flight attendants have been dragging on ever since.
The union made its request to break away from federally mediated talks after American Airlines refused to put an improved pay offer on the table. Earlier this year, the airline proposed an 11% pay rise spread over four years and has ‘stonewalled’ the union’s demands for a rise closer to 50%.
It has now been revealed that the NMB didn’t tell the union why it had declined their request to be released into a 30-day cooling-off period, although APFA leaders suspect that the NMB wants them to try more mediation in an effort to break the impasse.
Talks are scheduled to take place between AA and APFA with the assistance of federal mediators in Tampa, Florida on December 14. APFA president Julie Hedrick has warned that the union will once again request a release to strike if AA again refuses to up their initial pay offer.
Flight attendants have been repeatedly warned not to take matters into their own hands and attempt illegal ‘self-help’ actions like refusing to do certain duties or calling in sick en masse.
Other airlines and unions are closely monitoring events at AA, with flight attendants at Alaska Airlines and United Airlines entering into federally mediated talks in an effort to break stalled negotiations.
On Friday, flight attendants at Southwest rejected a tentative contract and their union must now wait to get back round the table with airline negotiators. Federal mediator are, however, so busy that new talks may be delayed for some time.
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.