Flight Attendants Board Authorizes Nationwide Strike
By Allison Schlesinger
The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 16, 2004; 4:00 PM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The board of the nation's largest flight attendants
union unanimously approved a strike resolution on Tuesday after its
president accused the industry of using the bankruptcy process to cut
workers' pay and other benefits.
"Almost everywhere we look, flight attendants are being forced to work
longer hours with reduced rest time, and all for ever-decreasing wages.
This must stop," Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight
Attendants, said at the opening of a meeting of the union's board of directors.
Friend said the union would immediately poll members at four airlines on
whether to strike and tally the vote by the end of December. The union has
46,000 members employed by 26 airlines, but the four immediately at issue
are United, US Airways, ATA and Hawaiian.
Friend noted the efforts at airlines like UAL Corp.'s United and US Airways
Group Inc. to use the bankruptcy process to cancel union contracts and
impose deep pay cuts. She said the bankruptcy process is being used to
terminate pension plans and eliminate health coverage for retirees.
"We intend to exercise our right to self help, which is to withdraw our
services," Friend said. She said seven carriers with AFA representation are
in bankruptcy, with others on the brink.
"Our entire industry is in turmoil and the careers of our flight attendants
all hang in the balance," Friend said.
Bankrupt US Airways, for instance, asked a judge on Friday to cancel the
collective bargaining agreement for the flight attendants and several other
unions. The airline then wants to impose a 15 percent pay cut on the flight
attendants, with no pay raise until 2008, and eliminate the flight
attendants' pension plan.
The airline says it needs the pay cuts to avoid liquidation and transform
itself into a low-fare carrier like JetBlue Airways Corp.
The judge presiding over US Airways' bankruptcy has already imposed
temporary pay cuts of 21 percent on the flight attendants and some other
union workers, comparing the airline's situation to "a ticking fiscal time
United is seeking another round of pay and benefit cuts from its union
workers, including $140 million in annual concessions from the flight
attendants on top of $314 million it has already secured, the union said.
© 2004 The Associated Press