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AFA-CWA Flight Attendant Featured Speaker At Premiere Working Families Event

Date: June 20, 2008

Jennifer Hunt Brings Awareness to Flight Attendants' Current FMLA Struggle

Washington, DC - Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) member and working mother Jennifer Hunt, addressed the National Partnership for Women and Families annual luncheon today to highlight the need for Congressional legislation that would finally enable flight attendants to qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Joining other distinguished speakers such as Michelle Obama and Cheryl Mills, Ms. Hunt brought forth the struggle and the devastating effects that the lack of FMLA coverage has on flight attendants and their families.

It is often difficult for flight attendants to qualify for FMLA coverage due to the unique way in which their hours are calculated and how the law was based off of the traditional 40-hour work week. Last year, Ms. Hunt was denied FMLA leave from her airline after her husband, who had recently returned from serving 15 months in Iraq, was diagnosed with cancer.

"The last thing you want to worry about when a medical emergency strikes is whether the hours you work meet a technical definition in the law, but unfortunately that is the reality many flight attendants are faced with," said Hunt. "We continue to work every day in convincing Congress that this injustice must be corrected. I am proud to say that we are very close to reaching our goal in ensuring that flight attendants and other airline workers are covered by FMLA, but are desperately awaiting the Senate to fix this technical loophole."

After months of persistent lobbying by thousands of flight attendants across the country, in May the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act by a wide margin of 402 to 9. This bill corrects the definition of hours needed to qualify for FMLA, and enables employees who work 60 percent of their specific full-time schedule over the course of a year to have access to the unpaid leave.

Over the past 15 years, the courts and federal agencies disregarded the original intent of the FMLA and set the annual threshold of hours that need to be met at 1,250. Despite the fact that some flight attendants may be away from home for up to 20 days a month while working, they are often denied FMLA coverage because of the unique timekeeping methods in which their work hours are calculated which result in an industry average of 80 hours per month, making the 1,250 hour threshold impossible.

A Senate version of the bill, S. 2059, introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), has 32 bipartisan co-sponsors.

For over 60 years, the Association of Flight Attendants has been serving as the voice for flight attendants in the workplace, in the aviation industry, in the media and on Capitol Hill.  More than 55,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines come together to form AFA-CWA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org. 

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