American Air Flight Attendants Vote to Support Possible Strike - BLOOMBERG
AUGUST 30, 2023
(Bloomberg) -- American Airlines Group Inc. flight attendants gave their union leaders approval to trigger a strike if the labor group is eventually allowed to end contract negotiations under federal labor law, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said.
The so-called strike authorization was approved by more than 99% of flight attendants voting, the union told members as they picketed Wednesday at Dallas-Fort Worth and other airports across the carrier’s network.
“APFA members today sent a strong message to the Company — we are unified and long overdue for a new contract. We are ready and willing to do what it takes.” Julie Hedrick, national president of APFA, said in a statement. “It was Labor that built this great country, and now it’s off the backs of labor that corporate greed makes its money.”
While the vote doesn’t mean flight attendants will strike immediately, it clears the way for a walkout if one is authorized by the National Mediation Board. A potential walkout could occur as early as November — when holiday begins to pick up in the US — and only after a multiphase process outlined in the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline-union relations.
“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in negotiations with the APFA, and we look forward to reaching an agreement that provides our flight attendants with real and meaningful value,” American said in a statement.
American Airline shares were little changed at 12:10 p.m. in New York. The stock has gained 16% year to date as passengers embraced travel once again after years of Covid restrictions.
The vote and widespread picketing highlight a year of labor tension at US carriers that have been negotiating for post-pandemic contracts with unions for pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and other employees. Many of the workers haven’t had pay raises since at least 2019, and are leveraging the tight labor market to secure higher compensation and rules that provide better work-life balance.
American’s flight attendants are seeking a 35% increase in hourly rates upon signing of a new contract, and a 6% jump annually during the proposed three-year term, Hedrick earlier said in an interview. Guaranteed base pay for American Airlines’ flight attendants — negotiated in 2014 under their last contract — is $27,300 a year before taxes, with opportunities to earn more, she said.
Pilots at the carrier approved a new contract on Aug. 21 that provides 46% in pay raises over its four-year term and adds about $9.6 billion in incremental costs for the airline over its duration. It’s the most expensive labor contract ever for a US carrier.
Read more: American Air Pilots Approve Record Contract With Higher Pay
(Updates with comments from the union and American)