Although ongoing contract negotiations at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline continue, flight attendants at American Airlines have been advised not to use so-called “self-help” strategies.
A self-help technique can involve flight attendants working within the rules, offering clients the bare minimum of services, or even refusing to do certain tasks entirely.
To disrupt the airline’s operations without actually going on strike, flight attendants might coordinate to call in sick en masse.
The thousands of American Airlines crew members who are represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) have been trying to put more pressure on management to negotiate contract improvements, but the union has cautioned flight attendants against taking matters into their own hands.
The two parties are ready to enter a “critical phase” of discussions as they begin discussing compensation changes, including boarding pay, according to a recent memo from APFA.
The union has informed its members that these crucial negotiations must adhere to a predetermined procedure and are mandated by the Railway Labor Act.
The independent National Mediation Board must approve self-help measures and strike action, despite the Railway Labor Act’s prohibitions to that effect.
The National Mediation Board’s approval to carry out a strike has historically “proved difficult to obtain,” according to APFA, which might, of course, make it appealing for some flight attendants to conduct their own actions secretly.
“As negotiations heat up, all Flight Attendants must understand that it is illegal to engage in self-help prior to the end of a cooling-off period,” the memo continued.
“That means no calls to not pick up open time, refusing to perform duties, coordinating calling in sick, etc. Flight Attendants have been terminated at other carriers simply for posting or ‘liking’ such posts on social media.”
American Airlines might initially respond to allegations of unauthorized self-help by suing the union for an injunction, but the union claims it doesn’t want to become “bogged down in” such a process.
As talks are ongoing, the APFA will continue to use its legal strategy of holding large-scale picketing demonstrations at airports around the United States. Pay talks may turn out to be the most controversial portion of the negotiations, despite the fact that the two sides have been able to reach an agreement on a number of areas.