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American Airlines Flight Attendants Take Next Step Toward Possible Strike



Flight attendants at American Airlines are asking federal mediators to release them from negotiations with the carrier, declaring an impasse that would then allow the attendants to strike in as little as 30 days. 

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents the airline’s 26,000 flight attendants, filed its request Monday with the National Mediation Board.

“We are ready to strike to get the contract we deserve and have earned,” APFA President Julie Hedrick said in a statement. “Every day negotiations drag on is money saved for American Airlines, and every day that goes by, the situation for flight attendants gets more dire.”

If the NMB were to grant the attendants’ request, that would commence a 30-day “cooling-off” period under the Railway Labor Act before the union could start its strike against American. 

The request, three days before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, could theoretically allow the attendants to begin striking during the Christmas holiday. However, even if the NMB were to grant the attendants a quick release, the Biden administration could also intervene with an emergency board to prevent a strike during a peak travel period.

In August, the board denied a request from pilots at Southwest Airlines to be released from contract negotiations.

Texas-based American did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on the union’s request.

Flight attendants are seeking a 35% pay increase, with 6% annual wage increases in a three-year deal. A flight attendant with a decade of service would make $73.91 per hour under the union’s proposal compared to $54.75 currently. The APFA also wants attendants working on reserve schedules to have 82 guaranteed work hours each month, up from 75.

The company has proposed an 11% increase with 2% yearly increases for a five-year contract and no changes to the reserve guarantee, according to the APFA.

The union says the attendants are working under terms of a 2014 contract and have not seen a raise in four years. “Flight attendants are front-line workers left shouldering the weight of inflation without the compensation needed to keep pace with the industry,” the APFA said in a Nov, 14 press release.

The attendants voted in August to support a strike. The last flight attendants strike at American was 30 years ago, while US Airways averted one in March 2000 when it reached a deal at the very end of the cooling-off period.

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