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Flight Attendants Sue United Airlines for Restriction of Free Speech

Date: June 20, 2001

WASHINGTON —United Airlines flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, have filed suit against the company for denying union leaders the right to communicate with union members at the workplace.

United has suspended two Boston-based flight attendant union leaders for conducting legal union activities in the crew lounge and around the airport. The union will file suit in federal court Wednesday, asking for an injunction allowing flight attendants to resume union business in the crew lounges without fear of illegal retribution from the company. The crew lounge is a break room where employees can watch television, eat lunch or just relax and serves as a vital communication link between union leaders and members.

Unions have always used the crew lounge to inform and educate their members, and other unions continue to use the break rooms for that purpose. However, United’s management is trying to strip that right from its flight attendants and has begun a campaign of harassment against AFA activists.

United has a decades long record of discrimination against the primarily female flight attendant workforce. Weight restrictions, gender discrimination, age requirements that forced flight attendants to retire at 32, illegal bans on marriage and on flight attendants having children, were all policies adopted and defended by United Airlines over the years.

“This unjust and illegal discipline is one more example of the discriminatory policies United has always selectively applied to it flight attendants,” United AFA Master Executive Council President Linda Farrow said. “United’s actions are not surprising. For years, the airline didn’t think that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to it, either.”

AFA Boston President Ralph Bagarella received a three-day suspension and AFA Boston Council Representative Sara Dela Cruz received a 10-day suspension. Both flight attendants will appeal their suspensions through the grievance process, in addition to today’s court filing.

The 26,000 United Airlines flight attendants are joined together in AFA, the world's largest flight attendant union. Visit us at www.unitedafa.org.

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