Women in History – Sara Nelson
March 26, 2021
When it comes to Aviation and Labor initiatives there is no one better equipped to lead than International President Sara Nelson. We know her as our Union sister, but to the rest of the world, she is known as “America’s Most Powerful Flight Attendant. “
Sara Nelson joined United Airlines in 1996 and quickly got to work in her local Union. If you’ve never heard her tell the story of why she became involved in Union work, it’s a good one; be sure to ask her to relate it to you. After her start in Boston, Sara moved to the MEC level as Communications Chairperson. Within a very short time, our Union was faced with one of the greatest challenges we had faced to date: United’s bankruptcy. Sara’s honest, forthright and direct style of communication was pivotal in keeping our Members informed and engaged in our fight to protect our Contract. Sara continued her upward momentum to become the International Vice-President, ultimately being elected to the Office of the AFA International President.
Sara will be the first to tell you she became involved because she wanted to see change. No one could have anticipated just how much positive change she would fuel for our profession, and for the labor movement as a whole.
“We have more in common than that which would ever divide us” has been Sara’s Philosophy and is the platform from which she leads with within our ranks, as well as securing common ground in Washington. Sara has built bridges and mended unlikely fences throughout our government and their agencies, always advocating for Flight Attendant priorities. The respect and relationships she has built in D.C. have ensured AFA-CWA and Flight Attendants across the country have a strong seat at the table when our jobs, safety, and security are being discussed. Her ability to bridge the gap between political parties has ensured our ability to push our initiatives forward to success.
Sara’s Union history is filled with long fights and securing major wins but her most recent fight, to ensure passage of the Payroll Support Program (PSP), is perhaps her biggest to date. Sara, alongside our AFA Legislative Affairs Team and countless volunteers, secured payroll support (PSP) not once, but three times. She was at the forefront of discussions to make sure that federal funding went directly to payroll and to restrict stock buybacks or executive bonuses. The successful passage of PSP meant thousands of Flight Attendants and aviation workers would keep their jobs and remain tied to their health insurance during a global pandemic. The accomplishments we’ve discussed here only scratch the surface, the ways Sara has strengthened our Union and worked to secure and better the lives of Flight Attendants everywhere are long indeed.
Women: Join Unions, Run Unions. Sara is a prime example of women in leadership and United AFA is proud to honor her as we close out Women’s History month.