CA Governor Signs Cortese Bill Granting New Rights to Flight Attendants
March 29, 2023
The California meal and rest law is an important protection for workers in California, but until now Flight Attendants have not been able to experience the benefits of it.
The problem is that as written, there is no way for the airlines to comply with the statute because Flight Attendants cannot simply leave the property for a break or go off duty during their work day according to federal regulations.
The law does not describe how to comply. In the federal court case, management took the position that airlines are EXEMPT from complying with this law. The courts decided otherwise, but did not provide instruction about how to comply.
We worked for a legislative fix that makes meal and rest a required subject of bargaining as the means to comply with the law. This is also an incentive for new start up airlines to reach agreement on a first contract - the law provides no more than 12 months to negotiate a contract with meal/rests provisions. California Senator David Cortese took the lead on this bill and worked closely with us to get it to the Governor's desk for signing.
In addition to winning a major fight for our rights under state laws (you will likely hear more about this over the next year as we fight to preserve our rights across the country), this solution is beneficial for many reasons:
- Each airline operation is unique and this allows the Flight Attendants and management to determine how best to provide these benefits within the unique operations at each airline.
- California can only enforce the law within the state and the plaintiffs even argued that the law only applies to intrastate flying, which was key in the Supreme Court decision to deny cert on the case. Only a small number of crews would be eligible for these benefits under the strict intrastate flying enforcement. But this legislative fix applies the law no matter where in the country our workday takes us.
- 85 percent of the California based Flight Attendants have a union and a union contract. Those who don’t can still file claims and those airlines are subject to fines until or unless they negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.
- Finally, this is also about job security for our work in California. We don’t need airlines making decisions based on their inability to comply with the law that jeopardizes our jobs in California or the kind of assignments we can bid for here in this state.
Now this issue is back in our hands, with the definitive legal standing that this law applies to us.