Bargaining Summit Sets Up Airlines' Labor Showdown

Four unions representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants at 18 U.S. airlines sent leaders to a summit Washington, D.C., this week to prepare for bargaining talks in the next two years. This unprecedented, three-day bargaining summit, ending today, sets up a showdown about working hours, wages, and benefits with the biggest U.S. carriers, Mike Hall of the federation's blog wrote Jan. 8.

The unions are the Flight Attendants unit of the Communication Workers, the Machinists, the Transport Workers, and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The leaders met with academics, labor economists, consultantsm and lawyers, Hall wrote. He also reported that they will meet with other unions that represent smaller groups of attendants to enlist their support.

Flight attendants, pilots, and ramp workers made significant concessions in recent years to help strapped airlines return to profitability. Unions have signaled in the past year that they intend to recoup those concessions, now that the large airlines are in the black again and substantially filling their planes, even in the face of high fuel costs. The contract talks coming up in the next two years will involve about 46,000 CWA attendants, 19,000 APFA members at American Airlines, 12,000 Machinist members at Continental Airlines and ExpressJet, and 9,000 Transport Worker members at Southwest Airlines.

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