There’s another possible strike looming for the travel industry.
The group that represents American Airlines flight attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to permit it to strike after a 30-day cooling-off period. That means that should the board give the group permission, a strike could occur toward the end of the busy holiday travel period.
However, flight attendant strikes, and strikes by airline workers in general, are rare because of the requirement that groups get permission from the National Mediation Board to strike. That hasn’t happened since 2010 when Spirit Airlines pilots staged a strike that brought that carrier’s traffic to a standstill.
The NMB would have to rule that negotiations between American and the union are at a standstill, which would start the 30-day cooling-off period before the union is allowed to strike. It’s the same timeline that Southwest pilots are following in their negotiations on a new contract with that airline.
The APFA is now arguing that the NMB should rule that the two groups are at an impasse. Julie Hedrick, the APFA National President, wrote in a letter to the NMB on Monday that “after negotiating for almost five years, including six months of mediation with the assistance of the National Mediation Board, the parties remain apart on key issues” and the group should be allowed to enter the cooling-off period.
“Despite our best efforts with the assistance of mediators from the National Mediation Board, we are unable to reach an agreement. We have bargained over every section of the Agreement, reaching tentative agreements on twenty-four sections. Of the remaining sections, most have an issue or two remaining," she wrote.
“Given the small number of issues and the extensive discussions to date, the remaining issues could be easily resolved in a thirty-day cooling-off period,” she said.
American, for its part, argued that the two sides are not at an impasse, despite a gap in what the APFA is requesting and American is offering—the APFA wants larger salary increases, up to 35%, and better benefits.
“Since resuming negotiations in 2021, the company has routinely met with APFA and presented proposals that maintain our commitment to paying our team members well and competitively,” American said in a statement.
“For months now, we’ve had an industry-leading economic proposal on the table, and we continue to make progress on other items, including as recently as last week. We stand ready to continue working with APFA… to reach an agreement that our flight attendants have earned.”
Even if the NMB allows the group to strike, President Joe Biden, or Congress, can then move to block the strike if they deem it could do enough damage to the U.S. economy.