In a significant development, federal mediators have stepped in to prevent a potential strike by flight attendants at American Airlines during the upcoming holiday season. The National Mediation Board has instructed both the airline and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) to continue negotiations for a new contract, thereby stopping a potential strike that could have marred travel plans for thousands of passengers.
American Airlines and APFA: A Tug of War
The dispute centers around wage increases, with flight attendants at American Airlines pushing for a substantial raise in their pay. The flight attendants, who have not seen any raise since 2019, argue that their contributions to the company's success have not been adequately recognized. APFA, representing the airline's flight attendants, is asking for a hefty 35% raise, to be followed by additional annual increases of 6%.
On the other hand, American Airlines has offered an 11% raise, followed by yearly increments of 2%. The airline has also proposed to match Delta's policy of paying flight attendants during boarding, suggesting that the 11% raise would effectively be closer to 18%.
The Role of Federal Mediators
The intervention of federal mediators in this dispute is not surprising, considering the complexities of labor relations in the airline and railroad industry. Federal law makes it difficult for unions to strike, requiring several steps including a declaration of an impasse by federal mediators, which can lead to a 30-day cooling-off period.
However, mediators seldom declare an impasse. Even if they do, the President has the authority to delay a strike, and Congress can enforce settlement terms on the involved parties. This intricate process, designed to protect the interests of both workers and companies, highlights the central role of federal mediators in resolving such disputes.
The Path Ahead
Despite the intervention of federal mediators, APFA President Julie Hedrick has stated that the union would increase pressure on the company to address their demands. For now, the flight attendants and American Airlines will return to the negotiating table, under the watchful eyes of the National Mediation Board.
This development underscores the deeply entrenched issues in labor relations within the airline industry, where striking a balance between worker demands and company policies often proves to be a challenging task.