American’s Flight Attendants Union Fiddles While Rome Burns

The American Airlines flight attendants union, Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), is exceptionally weak. They’ve been dysfunctional for years. I’ve written in the past about efforts by the larger Association of Flight Attendants, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America and AFL-CIO, to get their nose in under the tent.

Reading through the mid-August minutes of the APFA’s Executive Committee meeting I was initially struck by just three things.

  1. Their new staff attorney has no previous airline experience, not a great situation to be in during furloughs amidst contract negotiations.

  2. “Answering the many questions raised by Flight Attendants” during this challenging period is considered “exceed[ing] expectations” by this union which seems to epitomize what George W. Bush called ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations.’

  3. While about to lose 8000 members to furlough they were discussing what kind of credit cards they can use to spend union money.

It was only on a second pass through that something else stood out,

Last week, the first meeting concerning Foreign National bases was held with the Company. Dan Akin, Joe Burns, and Mark Littleton joined National Vice President Salas and National President Hedrick at this meeting

Joe Burns is Director of Collective Bargaining for AFA-CWA. I suppose APFA can use all the help they can get right now… though with union dues about to decline markedly due to reduction in flight attendant numbers by over 40%, it makes one wonder how long the independent APFA will hang oun.

I’ve seen the issue of flight attendants based overseas as a distraction. Many cabin crew want to see American Airlines employees based overseas, represented by different unions, to be cut altogether to save their own jobs. That’s not in the cards, though they’re being reduced proportionately. Either way it won’t make a meaningful dent in furlough numbers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The APFA has no clarity of thought. They are foolishly picking put fish on the beach. It has not crossed their mind why the waters have disappeared from the beach and they are about to be hit by the symbolic tsunami. Sad.

  2. Does anyone know how much is contributed to the union from an employee’s paycheck? Is it a set dollar amount per paycheck? Once a year fee? % of gross?

    I’m assuming the money then goes to attorneys and reps that negotiate for the union as well as to defend union members?

    Sorry but I’ve never been in a union. Unions I think are necessary but like everything, they go too far and then tarnish the image. For example I think they are needed to ensure employees aren’t subjected to harsh workplace conditions and get solid benefits but protecting bad employees, ineffective employees and creating job protection when clearly certain jobs are no longer needed isn’t in the best interest of the employees or the company.

  3. The APFA has slept with the company for a very long time. Their only concern now is they are going to lose the $41 a month for each flight attendant that will be furlough.( $341,000) if the government doesn’t help the airlines with a second Cares Act money.

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