Flight Attendants Heading to Arbitration with American Airlines
Wednesday, November, 12, 2014
In an incredibly narrow vote, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) rejected the first contract offered to them by the newly merged American Airlines Group, which is in the process of combining the operations of American Airlines and US Airways. The contract would have made the flight attendants for the newly merged airline the highest-paid in the industry, but was defeated by just 16 votes out of more than 16,000, with the final tally being 8,196 against and 8,180 for. The contract negotiation now moves to arbitration.
The contract was actually approved by the flight attendants employed by US Airways, but was rejected by the attendants working for American Airlines in what appears to be a clear division between corporate cultures.
The main issue with the contract was the profit-sharing plan, which the proffered contract terminated while offering guaranteed raises. These raises would have worked out to about $17,000 a year for each flight attendant.
The arbitration decision will be binding and not subject to any approval – whatever the arbitration board decides, the union will have to accept. This raises the specter of the ultimate arbitration decision being less in terms of total compensation than the contract offered by American Airlines Group to the union. Another issue is the fact that only about 78% of the union turned in a vote, leaving open the question of how things might have gone differently if that missing 22% of the union, more than 6,000 workers, had registered an opinion.