American Airlines Flight Attendants Moving Closer To Strike

The flight attendants at American Airlines say that contract negotiations have hit a wall, so they’ve asked for permission call an end to the talks. If granted, this would move the union one step closer to what could be the largest airline strike in the U.S. since 2005.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants is the second union in a week to ask for permission from the National Mediation Board to end negotiations with American. Last week, the Transport Workers Union — representing the airline’s ground crew — made their request. The Board has not yet decided on whether or not to grant the TWU’s wish.

If the Mediation Board does agree to let either union end negotiations, the unions would be offered binding arbitration. If either the unions or American reject that offer, that’s when a 30-day “cooling off” period begins before an actual strike can happen.

The major sticking point in the contract negotiations is the $1.6 billion the attendants, ground workers and pilots collectively gave up in 2003 in an effort to keep American out of bankruptcy. They now want that money back in the new contracts.

While American publicly says they feel they have “made progress and look forward to getting back to the table and back to work,” they have also told the FAA that they are thinking about using managers and other employees as replacement workers in case a strike does occur. That’s exactly what the airline did in 1993 when employees walked off the job for five days.

The last major strike in the U.S. was in 2005. 4,200 mechanics and aircraft cleaners at Northwest Airlines went on strike in that instance. Northwest responded by hiring replacement workers.

American Air Attendants Ask U.S. Board for Clearance to Strike [Business Week]