Negotiations between American and its flight attendants’ union appear to have hit a major snag, and the union may take a significant step toward a strike. Terry Maxon at the Dallas Morning News reports that after talks concluded on March 3 without a deal, the union “will ask the National Mediation Board (NMB) to start a 30-day cooling-off period, after which the union could walk off their jobs.”
The two sides seem far apart, both in their demands and in their assessments of the talks. The union said the company walked out of the meeting without responding to the union’s last proposal, while the airline claims talks were always scheduled to close and it is actually waiting for the union’s latest offer.
For travelers, however, the most pressing issue is whether or not the union will strike. Such a strike could cripple the airline’s service, as American could not possibly replace all of the lost workers.
One glimmer of hope, however, is the NMB, which is typically reluctant to declare an impasse. Maxon writes, “In one recent case, Hawaiian Airlines Inc. pilots asked the NMB in late October to declare an impasse and start the 30-day period. Instead, the NMB kept the union and company at the negotiating table, where the two sides reached an agreement in mid-December.” It seems likely that, given the size of American and potential severity of a strike, the NMB will deny the union’s request, if and when it’s made, and send the two sides back to negotiation.
Either way, my sense is this will likely get worse before it gets better, whether it’s a strike or a prolonged, nasty negotiation. For travelers, this is one to watch.
Readers, would an airline strike deter you from using that carrier in the future?