Strike Watch: American Airlines Flight Attendants Set To Walk Out
Why should Europe have all the fun? As of this week American Airlines, Continental, United, US Airways and Southwest are all engaged in contentious contract negotiations with any number of unions. But while most of those airlines are in tussles with their pilots, American is facing a walkout by its flight attendants. Negotiations between the airline and the union broke down Wednesday, setting up the conditions for an airline strike. Union officials now need to go to federal officials and ask them to start the clock running on a 30-day waiting period. At the end of that month a full-blown strike becomes permissible. Tick tock:
The two sides are fighting over wages and other items. The union, which represents about 18,000 flight attendants, wants raises to offset pay and benefit cuts that workers accepted in 2003, when American was close to bankruptcy. The company, which lost $3.6 billion in the last two years, says it spends more per employee on flight attendants than Delta, United, Continental and US Airways and must cut labor costs.
If its true that American flight attendants get above-average compensation, that would put the union in the same position as their British Airways counterparts. Which is to say, judging from the massive public support for the airline's strike-breaking plans, no position at all.
We continue to be skeptical that mass airline strikes will happen in the US. For one thing, the federal government - from which airline employees need permission for walkouts - generally frowns on transportation disruptions which would cascade through everything. For another, American airline workers have little leverage and everyone knows it. They're in the same catch-22 as European airline workers: given that their companies are already hemorrhaging money, pegging their demands too high only ensures that everyone ends up unemployed.
[Photo: Via Dallas Observer]
· U.S. airline, union disputes could disrupt flights [USA Today]
· American Airlines [Jaunted]
· Airline Strikes [Jaunted]