New York CNN –
American Airlines flight attendant union wants permission from the government to go on strike within 30 days. But you don’t have to worry about your holiday travel plans getting spoiled due to the strike.
Airline employees are covered under the Railway Labor Act. Despite its name, the RLA covers both rail employees and airline employees. There are significant differences from labor law governing other US occupations. Most notably, it places severe restrictions on the ability of airline or rail workers to go on strike when their contracts expire.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 23,000 members at American, has not cleared many of the legal hurdles it needs to win before it can strike at the union. This is the case even though union members have not received a pay raise since 2019.
If union-mediated union negotiations reach a point where no progress is being made at the table, the union or company management may ask the union mediators involved in the negotiations to declare an “impasse.” the union can run The union can expel workers only after a cooling-off period of 30 days following the declaration of a strike or management impasse.
he declares the impasse The argument that the Sangh is giving should happen now.
“The company has presented a strong position on economic matters, and APFA has made clear that the company’s economic structure does not work,” APFA President Julie Hedrick wrote in a letter to the federal agency monitoring the negotiations. And it won’t work.” “Any future bargaining will not change this, absent a release within the thirty-day cooling-off period.”
But American Airlines argued on Monday that there is no impasse in the talks and the talks should continue.
The airline’s statement said, “Since resuming negotiations in 2021, the company has met regularly with APFA and presented proposals that will ensure our team members are well and competitively compensated.” “We maintain our commitment to make payments.” “For several months now, we have had an industry-leading economic proposal on the table, and we are continuing to make progress on other items, including as recently as last week. We stand ready to continue working with APFA…to reach an agreement that protects what our flight attendants have earned.
But even if the union gets its way and federal arbitrators move toward a strike 30 days from now, there are additional hurdles in the law that could potentially prevent a strike from starting just before the year-end holidays.
two parties stay far apart
The two sides are clearly still at odds. The union is demanding an immediate 35% salary increase and outstanding salaries. This is starting from 2019. It also wants two additional 6% raises over the three-year period of its proposed contract.
The union says American is offering its members an immediate 11% raise and an additional 2% increase each year under the proposed five-year contract. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the details of its proposal.
But even if the flight attendant wins her request When the clock starts ticking towards a strike 30 days from now, there is no possibility of a strike. The RLA would allow President Joe Biden to step in at the last minute and order workers to stay on the job for an additional two-month “cooling off period” while a presidential panel comes up with recommendations on how to resolve the impasse .
Biden has clearly sided with workers in some recent strikes, including the United Auto Workers union strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, but he will not allow the nation’s largest airline to be shut down just before the Christmas holidays .
If the two sides can’t reach an agreement during that 60-day period, the union can go on strike — but only if Congress stays aside and allows a strike. But it is possible, and in the case of American Airlines, probably, that Congress will act to prevent a strike. This is what happened to the freight railroads last December when Congress imposed a contract on angry rail unions to keep the railroads running.
It is unlikely that Congress will allow any of the four major carriers to go on strike. When Southwest suffered a decline in service during the holiday season, causing it to ground more than half of its scheduled flights, a congressional hearing was held to look into the problem.
This does not mean that the union and its members are not serious about going on strike if they get the chance. Flight attendants have not only gone years without a pay raise, but have seen their job become significantly more difficult with the increase in the number of disruptive, sometimes violent passengers. AFPA said that in August 99.5% of members voted to authorize the strike, with 93% of members participating in the vote.
And the union’s demands come close to victories by other union groups in recent negotiations. Last month, Southwest Airlines flight attendants got an immediate 20% raise with retroactive pay. American recently agreed to a deal with its pilot union, the Allied Pilots Association, giving those members a 21% raise immediately and a 40% pay increase over the four-year life of that agreement.
Airline strikes have occurred in the past, but due to disruption, they are infrequent and generally occur with relatively small carriers.
Spirit Airlines pilots struck for a week in 2010, but the airline was very small at the time, accounting for only 1% of domestic air traffic at the time.
The last time a major airline was shut down by a strike was 25 years ago, when Northwest Airlines pilots went on strike for two weeks. Northwest was then the fourth largest US airline, but there was little consolidation in the industry then.
Since 1998, the 11 largest US airlines merged to form the four largest carriers today, including Southwest and American. These two, along with Delta and United, carry about 80% of US air traffic between them.
And vote strike does not mean that any union is going to go on strike.
Strike votes are a common negotiation tactic adopted during negotiations. They virtually always pass by wide margins. But most negotiations are settled without stopping work, even after the strike vote. Delta, United, and Southwest pilots all approved the strike votes, and immediately reached contracts with their significant pay increases without declaring any negotiations impasse.