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MEC President Letter: This is Unacceptable

Date: June 29, 2023

Flying Partners:

The conditions so many of us have been, and continue to be, subjected to this week are unacceptable.  The experiences that you continue to share within our Union are not reflective of what employees at the “biggest and best airline in the history of aviation” expect. We deserve better from our company.  We need to be able to reach our company for scheduling updates, to let them know where we are to avoid being lost in the system. We continue to experience entirely unacceptable call hold times to reach scheduling. In many instances, Flight Attendants who are at work have been left to secure their own sleeping arrangements, some able to find accommodations and others who sheltered in the airport because no rooms were available or through no fault of their own, don’t have the means to self-help.

Dedicated AFA volunteers at the Local Councils have been answering calls at all hours and present in airports helping support our Members. Front-line reports indicate blatant Contract violations, obvious from Flight Attendants sleeping in hallways and airports without hotels. They talk of seeing the look of fatigue, exhaustion and abandonment in their eyes and faces frustrated and let down by a company who is supposed to take care of them and has not.

Flight Attendants have shared that as a result of working in a culture where management doesn’t appear to trust Flight Attendants, as evidenced by the excessive punitive action that can affect even those with a clean work history, there is a fear of discipline. The fear of reprisal is from a system that is clearly broken and is yet another barrier not only between the company helping us, but anxiety of feeling safe when utilizing self-help and upholding our contractual protections.

As Flight Attendants, we are strong and resilient, but the feeling of heartbreak from a management that took us through this same experience last summer, seems to have learned nothing from it, nor made good on the promises to do better. CEO’s and management at airlines come and go, for them this is a job, and they treat us as if that were true for Flight Attendants as well. This is our career, and we have been and will continue to be here long after this current management team has taken their bonuses and moved on.

The words from CEO Scott Kirby this week did nothing but inflame the situation by not taking ownership and fixing it. When in a crisis it does not help to point your finger at the FAA and blame them, what matters is taking care of your dedicated workers, who have remained in the operation, and treating them with dignity and respect. “Thank you” is not enough. We don’t want to hear we are doing a good job; we already know It. Fix it.

Message to management; YOU are not doing a good job, YOU have let us down, YOU have not learned from the past, YOU have not made good on your promise to do better. YOU need to do better. YOU must meaningfully address all of the unacceptable conditions that Flight Attendants have had to endure.

It’s important to recognize the compassion and sometimes heroic efforts of some local supervisors. They are just as frustrated at the situation, have been in the bases, in the trenches, facing the same challenges and unable to get through to scheduling as well.

Conversely, upper management who looks at each of us as a cost item on a spreadsheet needs to get it through their heads, this is not how you treat anyone, even if you only value them as a number. It’s just basic decency.

Our first priority is doing our part to get the operation back together to get our Flight Attendants home. I realize we are all angry and feeling the injustice of what is being done to us. While this is not at all our fault, we need United to be flying the schedule so we can come to work and get the passengers in our care to their destinations. I get that many of us feel that we want to teach United a “lesson,” and I assure you the gravity of what is happening is doing just that. I have already made perfectly clear the severity of the impact this has had on United Flight Attendants and will push for, in the strongest of terms, this must not ever happen again, and management needs to make this right.

This crisis reminds us of the importance of our solidarity to help each other, and to engage in our negotiations process to make sure there are protections to our rest, work rules, schedule and duty days. We will get through this together. Today we recover, tomorrow we fight.


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