By: David Koenig, AP Airlines writer
Three separate unions representing flight attendants at major U.S. airlines are picketing and holding rallies at 30 airports on Tuesday as they push for new contracts and higher wages.
The flight attendants are increasingly frustrated that pilots won huge pay raises last year while they continue to work for wages that, in some cases, have not increased in several years.
They argue that they have not been rewarded for working through the pandemic and being responsible for the safety of passengers.
The unions are calling Tuesday’s protests a national day of action. It is not a strike — federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to conduct legal strikes.
The unions planned to picket at some of the nation’s busiest airports in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and elsewhere.
“We haven’t had a raise in five years. Our flight attendants have seen the very rich contracts that the pilots did get, and they expect American Airlines to come to the table,” said Julie Hedrick, president of the union at American.
Pilots had tremendous leverage in winning big raises because of a shortage. It takes years of flying for pilots to meet requirements to work for an airline. That is not the case for flight attendants. Airlines have bragged in the past about how many people applied when they advertised openings for flight attendants.
Tuesday’s protests were organized by Hedrick’s union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants; and the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents crews at United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and several other carriers; and the Transport Workers Union, which represents crews at Southwest.
The unions have conducted strike votes to put pressure on company negotiators, but of course management knows that airline strikes can be delayed or blocked by federal mediators, the president and Congress.
Mediators have already turned down one request by flight attendants at American Airlines to begin a countdown to a strike.