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‘Fired up’ American Airlines flight attendants threaten strike

Date: August 31, 2023

‘Fired up’ American Airlines flight attendants threaten strike if they don’t get 35% raise

By Ariel Zilber, New York Post

Published Aug. 31, 2023

American Airlines flight attendants voted to authorize union leaders to call for a strike in their stalled effort to pressure management to agree to a 35% pay raise and other benefits.

More than 99% of members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants gave union leadership the green light to threaten a work stoppage if ongoing negotiations through a mediator don’t yield fruit.

The airline — which last week approved a new contract with its pilots that gives them a 40% hike — and the union representing 26,000 flight attendants are scheduled to sit down with federal mediators next week in Dallas for more talks.

But flight attendants who spoke to The Post said their patience is wearing thin.

“We’ve not had a raise since January 2019,” Paul Hartshorn Jr., a spokesperson for the union, told The Post.

The union wants a 35% across-the-board salary bump and a 6% annual wage increase for the duration of a three-year contract.

Hartshorn also said that the union is demanding that management agree to beef up onboard staffing numbers that were cut due to the COVID pandemic.

He said that while American Airlines has added flights to meet surging travel demand, it has not adequately staffed those flights.

“Passengers and profits have returned, but they haven’t returned staffing,” Hartshorn told The Post.

Hartshorn also demanded that management enable flight attendants to “retire with dignity” by boosting its 401(k) match and contribution.

As things stand now, American Airlines offers flight attendants 2.5% match and a 3% contribution toward their 401(k), “which is way below any other unionized airline group,” Hartshorn told The Post.

The vote is one of several steps that need to be taken before the union can launch a legal work stoppage.

Federal law requires airline unions to have mediators rule that there is no point to further negotiations — a rarity in the industry.

If mediators give the go-ahead for a strike, the president or Congress can step in and block or delay a work stoppage.

Union members picketed in front of terminals at several airports nationwide on Wednesday demanding that American Airlines agree to their demands for pay raises.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in negotiations with the APFA, and we look forward to reaching an agreement that provides our flight attendants with real and meaningful value,” an airline spokesperson told The Post. 

“We understand that a strike authorization vote is one of the important ways flight attendants express their desire to get a deal done.”

“The results don’t change our commitment or distract us from working expeditiously to reach an agreement,” the company rep added.

The airline added that the union vote and the protests “have no impact on our operations.”

The head of the union told management to gird for battle.

“Flight attendants are fired up and ready for a contract,” Julie Hedrick, national president of APFA, told The Post.

“They ignore this strike vote at their peril,” she said, adding: “Our contributions to the success of American Airlines must be respected.”

Shares of American Airlines were trading flat on Wall Street on Thursday.

Last week, American Airlines pilots approved a new contract that will raise their pay by more than 40% over four years and increase company contributions to retirement plans.

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents nearly 15,000 pilots, said that 73% of pilots who took part voted in favor of the four-year contract, which it valued at $9.6 billion.

Pilots at Southwest Airlines and United Airlines flight attendants are also demanding new contracts. Their unions are scheduled to picket at airports nationwide on Thursday.

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