Pride - Looking Back
June 28, 2022
For decades, Flight Attendants have made up one of the most diverse and beautiful workforces in the world. We are a part of a community, driven to connect people around the globe by sharing our own unique stories and bringing people closer together through inclusion and representation.
As we close out the celebrations of PRIDE month here in the United States, we want to take a moment to reflect on the power of solidarity and the fight for equity here at our airline.
Looking to the past one can quickly identify how much of an impact Flight Attendants have had on social change. First, it began as a movement led by the airline workers of the 1940s fighting for their right to unionize. The women who lead AFA in the 1960’s successfully fought to remove barriers related to age, gender, and marital status. Those early organizers laid the groundwork for continued improvements and employment opportunities both here at United and across the airline industry.
As recounted by Guy Bosworth in our AFA publication Successes, in1996 the City of San Francisco passed an Equal Benefits Ordinance that required all companies doing business with the city to provide the same benefits to unmarried employees in domestic partner relationships – including gay and lesbian couples – as they did to married couples.United and the Air Transport Association (ATA - the airline industry’s lobbying group) sued the city saying they were not affected by local statutes.
Flight Attendants and local activists came together to fight management’s opposition.
The “United against United” campaign targeted the airline in the court of public opinion and consisted of protest rallies, sit-ins, and marching in the San Francisco Pride parade 25 years ago.United did not fully prevail in the lawsuit and was directed to provide partial benefits. United and the ATA (now known as Airlines for America or A4A) filed an appeal that was denied on July 29, 1999. One day later United announced it would provide full domestic partner benefits, including health and pension benefits, to gay employees and retirees worldwide. Within days American and Delta followed suit and offered domestic partner benefits to their employees as well. Over the course of the next several years, domestic partnership benefits became standard throughout the airline industry.
All of this was, in large part, due to the hard work and advocacy of AFA and United Flight Attendants.
Every day activists that see injustice and speak up, are the driving change behind improvements and equity in the United States and around the world. Our LGBTQ+ Members have played a vital role in advancing worker's rights in Aviation. We thank each and every one of them for their continued contributions to making the world a place where we can all be accepted and thrive.