United Airlines and the flight attendant union have been locked in an increasingly acrimonious verbal battle over the Chicago-based carrier’s decision to fire two seasoned crew members who were also union officials (AFA-CWA).
United said it would not allow retaliation, especially against employees who expressed safety concerns, in justifying its decision to terminate the two long-serving flight attendants.
The union believes its representatives were justified in their actions, but the courts have agreed with United so far.
The feud began in late 2020, when a flight attendant filed a complaint against two of her coworkers, alleging that they did not wear their face masks during rest periods.
The flight attendants involved were summoned for questioning as part of a safety inquiry.
The union also got involved and launched its own investigation, with two now-fired flight attendant representatives interrogating various parties, including the crew member who originally filed the complaint.
United believes the interviews are retaliatory and has sought to know what was said at the union meetings.
The union launched a lawsuit against United in an attempt to prevent the airline from investigating the reps, but the case was dismissed by a federal judge who sided with United.
Following the conclusion of the investigation, United has taken the “unbelievable” action of firing the two union reps, according to AFA.
On Thursday, United’s head of inflight, John Slater, wrote to the airline’s entire flight attendant crew, providing the company’s side of the story in an unusual move. He claims the union reps made “totally fraudulent” counter-allegations against the reporting flight attendant, among other things.
“These false reports resulted in a number of investigations over several months. In these investigations, flight attendants revealed that the information against the reporting flight attendant was solicited by the two union representatives,” Slater wrote.
“We do not tolerate retaliation, period. Under the United-AFA CBA and established Company policies, United must investigate allegations of retaliation. Moreover, ANY employee engaged in retaliation will be investigated”.
The union has since fired back, claiming the facts as presented by United were “an incomplete and company-oriented perspective on the matter.”
“While United management claims to be against intimidation, they have no problem publicly going after long time Flight Attendants who received a sham investigation from the company before pushing forward with termination proceedings.”
Instead of reporting complaints to the airline, the AFA advised its members to use its Professional Standards Program to resolve conflicts among flight attendants.
The union is pursuing a lawsuit against United in federal court, alleging that the airline violated the Railway Labor Act. The court dates have yet to be determined.