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AFA-CWA
AFA-CWA logo.png
Association of Flight Attendants
Founded August 22, 1945
Members 55,000
Country United States
Affiliation AFL-CIO, CWA,ITF
Key people Patricia A. Friend, president
Office location Washington, D.C.
Website www.afanet.org

The Association of Flight Attendants (commonly known as AFA) is a union representing flight attendants in the United States. As of November 2009, AFA represents 55,000 flight attendants at 22 airlines, making it the world's largest flight attendant union. The International President of AFA currently is Patricia A. Friend, a United Airlines flight attendant since 1966. Ms. Friend also represents AFA on the AFL-CIO Executive Council. Since 2004 AFA has been part of the 700,000 member Communications Workers of America, an affiliate of the 9 million member AFL-CIO. AFA is also an affiliate of the 5 million member International Transport Workers' Federation.[1]

Contents

History

AFA was founded in 1945 by flight attendants at United Airlines. The first president was Ada Brown Greenfield. The organization was originally known as Airline Stewardess Association or "ALSA". In 1949 "ALSA" merged with the Air Line Stewards and Stewardess Association, a division of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). In 1973 ALSSA flight attendants chose self-determination and formed an independent Association of Flight Attendants, leaving ALPA. In 1984 the AFL-CIO granted AFA a charter.[2] Seeking to maintain services and expand its resources in the face of a massive layoff of flight attendants after the September 11, 2001 Attacks, AFA members voted to merge with the Communications Workers of America, maintaining its autonomy and identity within CWA.

CHAOS

AFA-CWA members threaten CHAOS at Northwest Airlines August 15, 2006 at San Francisco International Airport

CHAOS is AFA's trademarked strategy of intermittent strikes designed to maximize the impact of an industrial action while minimizing the risk for striking flight attendants.

In May 1993, AFA Members at Seattle-based Alaska Airlines were facing a 30-day cooling-off period after more than three years of futile negotiations, and months of mediation under the supervision of the National Mediation Board. In the past, the company had taken a series of strikes in pursuit of its bargaining demands and seemed prepared to take another one. For years, the company had kept all of its office personnel trained as flight attendants just so they could be used as replacements for striking flight attendants.[3] A traditional strike clearly was doomed to fail. In 1986, thousands of TWA flight attendants represented by a different union had been permanently replaced by corporate raider Carl Icahn in a disastrous traditional strike.

Instead of a traditional strike, the Alaska flight attendants designed and executed a unique campaign that featured surprise tactics and intermittent strikes, called CHAOS (Create Havoc Around Our System). The flight attendants rallied around CHAOS as management had to deal with the fact that travelers could count on only uncertainty if they risked flying during CHAOS. Alaska Airlines flight attendants won a fair contract executing the following summary of the CHAOS strategy:

In June, 1993, the cooling-off period mandated by the Railway Labor Act had expired without the parties reaching agreement in the negotiations between AFA and Alaska Airlines. Four days later Alaska Airlines management implemented its imposed work rules. For six weeks flight attendants were free to strike, but instead AFA imposed a huge impact on the company purely through the threat of a CHAOS strike, targeted but unannounced strike actions designed to maximize the flight attendants' impact while minimizing their risk.

The company paid office personnel to fly as passengers on every flight and be ready at a moments notice to jump up and perform the duties of flight attendants in the event the working crew initiated a CHAOS strike. During this time, AFA Members off duty also participated in informational picketing and other activities that included the biggest labor rally in the Seattle area for many years. These activities kept the threat of CHAOS in the minds of management, the media and the traveling public.

The first CHAOS strike took place in Seattle when three flight attendants walked off an Alaska Airlines flight just before passenger boarding.[4] A notice was faxed simultaneously to the company offices announcing the CHAOS strike had begun on that particular flight. Twenty minutes later the union faxed a notice to the company explaining the strike was over and that the flight attendants offered to unconditionally return to work. Management could not decide what to do and held these flight attendants were held out of service with pay until management simply let them return to work a few weeks later.

A month later, another crew of flight attendants struck the last flight out of Las Vegas.[5] Rather than allowing these flight attendants to come back to work 30 minutes later when the intermittent strike had ended, Alaska management told this crew they were "permanently replaced", much like a traditional strike. This crew was placed on a recall list which the company was required to call from before hiring "off the street" and after about 6–8 weeks each of the flight attendants was recalled with full seniority. During the time they were out of work, they were fully supported through AFA's CHAOS strike donations with the pay they would have earned working as flight attendants.

A few weeks later, AFA struck five flights simultaneously in the San Francisco area.[6] Alaska management suspended these flight attendants and threatened to fire any other flight attendant who would participate in CHAOS strikes. This forced AFA to go to court where the union's attorneys ultimately won a preliminary injunction. In the injunction ruling the court stated the company could not threaten, discipline or fire flight attendants for engaging in intermittent strikes. The only permissible action the company could take would be to replace the flight attendants and put them on a recall list. The suspended strikers were ordered reinstated with full back pay. AFA also financially supported these strikers during the time of their suspension through the CHAOS strike donations.

Within two weeks of the court decision, with AFA on the eve of more CHAOS strikes and without any further discussion at the bargaining table, Alaska's CEO made a new bargaining proposal. The company offered to enter into an agreement with AFA that included as much as a 60% raise and addressed all of the other issues sought by the Alaska flight attendants during the campaign for a new contract. Within an hour, a tentative agreement was signed. The members later ratified the new agreement by an overwhelming margin.

After striking only seven flights in a period of nine months, AFA had executed the most successful strike in airline history without harming a single union member. CHAOS is a powerful tool that is legally sanctioned and trademarked by AFA.

In the years since the Alaska Airlines CHAOS strike, flight attendants at numerous other AFA carriers have used CHAOS or the threat of CHAOS to increase their bargaining leverage and win favorable contracts. America West,[7] AirTran and US Airways[8] all settled with AFA on the eve of, or a few minutes after, the end of a 30-day cooling-off period in the 1990s. The pressure created by the threat of CHAOS forced management at each of those airlines to settle on terms favorable to the flight attendants, without a single flight ever being struck. AFA flight attendants at Midwest Express (now Midwest Airlines), completed a cooling-off period without reaching agreement on a first contract in 2002. After three weeks of a CHAOS campaign, and on the eve of CHAOS strikes,[9] management again relented on the remaining issues and agreed to terms that were ratified by the flight attendants. United Airlines flight attendants used the threat of CHAOS to leverage their negotiations during the airline's bankruptcy,[10] succeeding in doubling the value of the replacement retirement plan management had proposed.

Flight attendants at Northwest Airlines, locked in a vicious round of bankruptcy negotiations, deployed a CHAOS campaign days after joining AFA in July, 2006.[11] Just days later union negotiators concluded a new tentative agreement with millions of dollars in improvements, but which was voted down by a narrower margin. AFA continued preparations for CHAOS strikes at Northwest pending the outcome of negotiations and litigation surrounding the case.[12]

The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the union, denying the strike injunction sought by management.[13] But on appeal, the federal district court and the court of appeals ruled that workers under the Railway Labor Act cannot strike in response to rejection of a collective bargaining agreement in bankruptcy,[14] effectively pre-empting the threat of CHAOS strikes. Northwest and AFA returned to negotiations and reached a new tentative agreement, which was narrowly ratified by the flight attendants on May 29, 2007.[15] After exhausting every legal and negotiations avenue, the flight attendants became the last major work group at Northwest to agree to new contract terms in bankruptcy. The new contract provided Northwest with $195 million in annual cuts through 2011, and secured a $182 million equity claim for the flight attendants before it was lost upon the company's exit from bankruptcy.

Airlines With AFA Flight Attendants

Organizing

Article 1.C.1 of the AFA-CWA Constitution and By-Laws states AFA's objective to unite all cabin crew members in the airline industry regardless of age, color, disability, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression who are eligible for membership. In July 2006, in a contested election, Northwest Airlines flight attendants voted to replace their independent union with AFA. According to the AFA web page, AFA currently is seeking to organize flight attendants with Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Omni Air International, and Frontier Airlines.

Select Locals

The AFA has an international network of locals.

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United Airlines

Northwest Airlines

US Airways

American Eagle

See also

References

  • Nielsen, Georgia Panter (1982). From Skygirl to Flight Attendant, Women and the Making of a Union. Ithaca, New York: ILR Press/Cornell. ISBN 978-0875460932.  
  • Borer, David A. (1995). "Doing Battle: Flight Attendant Labor Relations in '90s". in Darryl Jenkins ed.. Handbook of Airline Economics. Aviation Week Grp., Div. of McGraw-Hill. pp. 563–568. ISBN 0-07-607087-5.  

External links

Notes

  1. ^ AFA website, www.afanet.org
  2. ^ Nielsen, passim.
  3. ^ Borer p. 567.
  4. ^ Striking Flight Attendants Suspended -- Union Delays Its First Alaska Trip, by Polly Lane, Seattle Times, August 23, 1993.
  5. ^ Alaska Airline Workers Delay Las Vegas Flight, Seattle Times, August 25, 1993.
  6. ^ Alaska Suspends 17 More Attendants After Flights Disrupted, Seattle Times, Business Section, September 14, 1993.
  7. ^ America West Strike Looms, CNN, web posted March 19, 1999.
  8. ^ US Airways Flight Attendants Hold News Conference, CNN, aired March 24, 2000 - 11:03 a.m. ET.
  9. ^ Union Keeps Midwest Express Guessing, by Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, JS Online, web posted September 1, 2002.
  10. ^ UAL Flight Attendants Threaten CHAOS, by Gregory Meyer, Crain's Chicago Business, web posted April 29, 2005.
  11. ^ How chaotic would CHAOS be for Northwest?, by Jeff Horwich, Minnesota Public Radio, broadcast August 1, 2006.
  12. ^ Cabin Pressure - The Union Promises to Wreak 'Chaos' As Another Carrier Downsizes a Career, by Dale Russakoff, Washington Post, August 25, 2006, Page D01.
  13. ^ Judge rules Northwest flight attendants can strike, by Jeff Horwich, Minnesota Public Radio, web posted August 17, 2006.
  14. ^ Court upholds strike ban on Northwest's flight attendants, by Padraic Cassidy, MarketWatch, web posted and updated 12:59 PM ET Mar 29, 2007.
  15. ^ Northwest flight attendants okay bargaining agreement, Reuters, web posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 9:03pm EDT.

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