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American Airlines and Flight Attendant Union Summoned to Washington DC On Saturday As Strike Ruling Looms

American Airlines and Flight Attendant Union Summoned to Washington DC On Saturday As Strike Ruling Looms

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American Airlines and the union which represents tens of thousands of flight attendants at the carrier have been summoned to a rare Saturday meeting of the National Mediation Board (NMB) in Washington DC as a decision looms over whether flight attendants will be allowed to go on strike.

The NMB is an independent federal agency which oversees labor relations in the railway and aviation sectors. The NMB’s three-person board of members selected by the President gets the ultimate say over whether transport workers are allowed to go on strike.

Despite the overwhelming majority of flight attendants at American Airlines voting to back strike action back in August 2023, the NMB has so far blocked the union’s request to take ‘self-help’ action and has been pushing the two sides to reach a compromise deal in protracted contract talks.

Those negotiations entered a new make-or-break phase several weeks ago, but despite intensive bargaining sessions, which even involved Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su meeting flight attendants, the talks ended in failure.

Since then, the NMB has been mulling whether to finally allow American Airlines flight attendants to go on strike.

That decision may be announced after the agency summoned representatives from American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) to the NMB’s headquarters in Washington DC, on June 29.

“After weeks of intensive mediation broke off last week, your APFA Negotiating Team has continued to aggressively press our case that American Airlines Flight Attendants need a contract that addresses our concerns,” the union said in a statement.

“The time is long overdue for American Airlines management to resolve these negotiations and agree to the contract we deserve.”

If the NMB does approve the union’s request to take self-help action, the agency will declare an impasse in negotiations and release the two sides into a 30-day cooling-off period, after which flight attendants would be allowed to go on strike.

The flight attendant union has already indicated that it wouldn’t call an all out strike but instead adopt the so-called CHAOS system which was pioneered by sister union, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).

CHAOS, which stands for ‘Create Havoc Around Our System’, involves calling out flight attendants from seemingly random flights at the last minute. The tactic means that the airline wouldn’t have enough time to restaff affected flights while passengers would have no idea if their flight were about to be hit by a walkout.

Of course, the tone of the union’s Friday afternoon memo also suggests that the two sides may be nearing a compromise deal and strike action could be averted.

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