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Last Ditch Talks to Avoid a Flight Attendant Strike at American Airlines End With No Agreement in Sight… What Happens Now?

Last Ditch Talks to Avoid a Flight Attendant Strike at American Airlines End With No Agreement in Sight… What Happens Now?

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Two weeks of intensive last-ditch talks between American Airlines and its flight attendant union aimed at avoiding a massive strike have ended in failure, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) announced on Thursday.

The union said it no longer believes federal mediators will call the two sides back to the bargaining table before making their decision on whether an impasse in negotiations has been reached.

If an impasse is declared, mediators are likely to release both sides into a 30-day cooling-off period. During this period, the two sides can continue to reach a contract agreement, but what is important is that at the end of the 30 days, flight attendants would be allowed to engage in strike action.

That decision is made by the National Mediation Board, which is an independent federal agency that oversees labor relations in the railroad and airline industries.

Although the NMB is supposedly independent, its board members are appointed by the President, and they will be keenly aware of the political ramifications if they release more than 25,000 flight attendants to take strike action.

Nonetheless, and even with a Presidential Election fast approaching, the chances of the NMB finally declaring an impasse in the ongoing dispute at American Airlines have never been higher, and passengers are now on notice that their summer travel plans could be in jeopardy.

“All American Airlines Flight Attendants should prepare for an upcoming strike,” the union warned its members on Thursday. “Management had every chance to reach an agreement over the last six weeks of mediated talks,” the memo continued.

During the last few weeks of intensive negotiations, progress was made in a number of key areas that the two sides had been at loggerheads over, but the union says they can’t agree on a starting wage for new-hire flight attendants who often struggle to make ends meet.

Another area of animosity is the subject of retro pay, as flight attendants haven’t received a pay raise since 2019, when their contract became amendable. The union would like to see AA follow the lead of Southwest Airlines, which offered retro pay in its latest contract, but no such agreement has been reached.

In what could be seen as a sign of how desperate the Biden administration is to avoid an airline strike this summer, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg met union officials ahead of federal mediation last week, and administration officials kept in touch with both parties throughout.

The union first requested a release to strike last November, but the NMB quickly rejected it. A second request was filed only a few weeks later, and the NMB has sat on that decision ever since, desperately trying to get the two sides to reach a compromise in mediation.

Unions have complained about how hard it is for airline workers to actually take part in strike action, resulting in employers stretching out negotiations because the risk of a walkout actually taking place is so low.

Separately, the NMB has ordered Alaska Airlines and its flight attendant union into an additional day of federally mediated talks as they attempt to reach their own contract.

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