American Airlines flight attendants are nearing a strike after talks ended without agreement, says union.

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The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 28,000 flight attendants, has escalated tensions with American Airlines, moving closer to a potential strike following failed contract negotiations. The talks, which concluded without an agreement on Thursday, have left union president Julie Hedrick and her members frustrated over what they perceive as inadequate compensation proposals from the airline.

In a statement, Hedrick expressed disappointment that American Airlines did not present a satisfactory compensation agreement despite years of bargaining efforts, including nearly a year of mediated talks with the National Mediation Board. “Flight Attendants will move the process forward to secure overdue economic improvements,” she asserted, signaling a readiness to take further action if necessary.

Conversely, American Airlines contends that progress was made during the recent negotiations, bolstering what they describe as an industry-leading proposal that has been on the table for months. The airline expressed optimism about the potential for reaching a mutually beneficial agreement in the near future and indicated a willingness to continue discussions. “This agreement is within reach and we look forward to additional dates being scheduled,” American Airlines stated in response to the union’s concerns.

The impasse comes amid ongoing efforts by American Airlines to address labor concerns, including a recent offer to increase flight attendants’ wages by 17% immediately, coupled with a revised profit-sharing formula. Negotiations, originally initiated in January 2020 but paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed in June 2021 with both sides striving to find common ground on a new labor contract.

CEO Robert Isom reaffirmed the company’s commitment to reaching a new agreement earlier this month, emphasizing the importance of fair compensation and working conditions for flight attendants. However, the union has pointed out disparities, noting that flight attendants have not received a raise in five years while executives reportedly receive substantial bonuses.

The disparity in compensation between top executives and frontline workers has been a contentious issue. According to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, new-hire flight attendants at American Airlines start at just $27,000 per year, contrasting starkly with the significant compensation packages of top executives. This has fueled accusations of corporate greed and prompted calls for fairer treatment and better financial recognition for flight attendants.

Despite these grievances, flight attendants are not currently authorized to strike as they have not been released into the mandatory 30-day cooling-off period by the National Mediation Board. However, pressure is mounting, evidenced by a letter signed by 178 members of Congress urging the board to allow flight attendants the option to strike if necessary to achieve their desired contract terms.

The situation underscores broader issues within the aviation industry regarding labor relations, compensation disparities, and the balancing of corporate profitability with employee welfare. It also highlights the critical role of unions in advocating for fair treatment and equitable compensation for their members, particularly in sectors where safety, customer service, and operational efficiency are paramount.

Looking ahead, the resolution of these negotiations will likely have significant implications for American Airlines, its workforce, and the broader aviation sector. The outcome could set a precedent for how other airlines address labor issues and negotiate with their respective unions in an increasingly competitive and financially challenging industry landscape.

As stakeholders continue to navigate these complex negotiations, finding a compromise that addresses the concerns of both parties will be crucial in fostering a sustainable and cooperative relationship moving forward. Ultimately, the outcome will impact not only the livelihoods of flight attendants at American Airlines but also the perception of the company among its employees, customers, and the public at large.

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