Sara Nelson, dubbed “the most powerful flight attendant in the United States” (and possibly the world), has been re-elected for a new four-year term as president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).
The Association of Flight Attendants is the world’s largest cabin crew union, with 50,000 members working for 18 airlines. More than 20,000 United Airlines flight attendants make up the union’s largest workgroup, while its newest members will soon be flying for Norse, a transatlantic low-cost carrier.
Between those two points, the AFA represents flight attendants at Alaska, Frontier, and Spirit Airlines, and under Nelson’s leadership, the union is launching a new campaign to convince Delta Air Lines flight attendants to join the fold and unionize for the first time in the company’s history.
After multiple failed attempts, Nelson would consider unionizing Delta flight attendants a big victory. Nelson, a 25-year United Airlines flight attendant, joined the union in 1996 and has served as AFA’s worldwide president since 2014.
Nelson, who had already established herself as a rising star in the labor movement, shot to fame in 2019 when her calls for a general strike were credited with ending President Trump’s government shutdown.
Nelson received awards the following year for leading calls for a federal emergency relief fund for the pandemic-affected aviation industry. The multibillion-dollar bailout allowed tens of thousands of flight attendants and other airline employees to save their jobs.
AFA has been criticized for parts of its political activities under Nelson’s hardline leadership, notably its support for the federal face mask law until recently. Nelson and AFA recently joined the fight over Roe v. Wade, calling the draft ruling of the Supreme Court a “radical assault on our rights.”
Nelson was re-elected to the AFA-CWA Board of Directors on Saturday in Las Vegas. “Some may call these times desperate,” Nelson said shortly after being confirmed in the role. We know them as a rallying cry.”
“Working people have risen up in the darkest of times to achieve our greatest gains,” Nelson concluded. “Stronger together, better together” is more than a slogan; it’s a mission statement.