American Airlines presented its contract proposal to flight attendants and the terms basically match watch Delta gets, according to the union. But they aren’t happy.
- 11% wage increase “which matches the current Delta rates, which have a top rate of $76 per hour.”
- 2% increases in each of the remaining years of the 5 year agreement
- Boarding pay at 50% rates.
- Increased profit sharing, participating in a pool made up of 10% of profits up to $2.5 billion and 20% above that (American earned $803 million in 2022 and reduced its third quarter earnings guidance). The definition of the profit sharing pool matches Delta’s, but American Airlines earns less profit so flight attendants will see less income.
- Increased retirement contributions, doubled training pay
This is basically what I expected, because airline CEO Robert Isom committed to match top of the industry pay. United’s flight attendants are still in negotiations.
Yet the union says “we are far apart on wages.” As I’ve written, the union can’t accept a contract that’s going to disappoint members – after asking for 35% wage increases up to $95 per hour and 6% annual increases in future years – because there are fall elections approaching. Once those happen, and union leaders don’t have their jobs at immediate risk, they can bargain productively.
The company’s proposal is significant – not just for wage increases to match Delta (American can’t really pay more than competitors, since it doesn’t make more than competitors) but also because it matches Delta’s revolutionary move to offer boarding pay.
Traditionally, wages are higher for time flying to account for not calculating pay to include boarding time. That’s something unions have preferred, because it benefits senior members of the union over junior ones, since junior flight attendants tend to work more, shorter flights and spend a disproportionately larger amount of time boarding planes compared to senior crew with longer flight times on long haul trips.
This, however, increases both wages and adds boarding pay. Obviously flight attendants would like to be paid more. The best leverage they’ll have is pattern bargaining, to wait and see if Sara Nelson’s AFA gets more money for cabin crew at United.
While American Airlines flight attendants have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, which is different than actually wanting to strike or being able to strike, the best strategy is going to be to wait – both for union leadership who want re-election and for union members who want a better deal and who will want to see what happens at United.
Meanwhile, with a competitive offer on the table, it might be a struggle to get released to self-help (strike) by the National Mediation Board. No administration wants to see major airlines shut down. And the union can’t afford it anyway, and neither can its members. That’s why they’ve talked in flight attendant communications about randomly striking certain flights and routes on certain dates, rather than engaging in a full strike. That way flight attendants can continue drawing pay while imposing a cost on the airline, since most can’t go without the income. (Although LAX-based flight attendants may become eligible for unemployment during a strike, which is another reason to wait.)