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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Met American Airlines Flight Attendants During Last Ditch Contract Talks to Avoid Costly Strike

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Met American Airlines Flight Attendants During Last Ditch Contract Talks to Avoid Costly Strike

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Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su met flight attendants from the union that represents tens of thousands of crew members at American Airlines as last-ditch talks aimed at avoiding a crippling strike got underway in Washington DC.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) did not reveal what Buttigieg said during his meeting with the union’s negotiators, but it does signal just how desperate the Biden administration is to avoid a major airline strike in the runup-to November’s Presidential election.

In fact, the union says representatives from the Biden administration kept in touch throughout the week as talks continued in an attempt to break a deadlock on a potential pay raise that has been dragging on for months with little progress.

Flight attendants at the Fort Worth-based airline haven’t had a pay raise since 2019, when their contract became amendable, although the union very recently rebuffed an offer from American CEO Robert Isom for an immediate 17% pay raise while negotiations on a wider contract continue in federal mediation.

Ultimately, it is an independent federal agency called the National Mediation Board (NMB) which will decide whether flight attendants at American Airlines are allowed to go on strike.

It’s become very clear, however, that the NMB is eager to avoid releasing flight attendants to a 30-day cooling-off period at all costs.

In a new memo from the flight attendant union to its members on Friday evening, APFA said that progress has been made in certain areas and that the NMB had now directed the two sides to continue negotiations in a bid to reach an amicable compromise.

“During this week of negotiations, we made progress on certain important economic items but are still apart on the final key economic areas of the agreement,” the union said in its memo.

“The NMB has requested that we not discuss particular details of the talks at this time,” the memo continued. “We will either reach a tentative agreement, or the NMB will consider issuing a proffer of arbitration and a release into a thirty-day cooling-off period.”

Flight attendants at American Airlines voted overwhelmingly in favor of taking strike action last year, but the union’s first request to be released into a 30-day cooling-off period was quickly rebuffed by the NMB.

The union then submitted a second request to go on strike, but the NMB has yet to make a ruling, instead ordering flight attendants and airline leaders to reach a compromise.

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