The Airline Deregulation Act makes airline prices, schedules, and service a federal issue – pre-empting state regulation. However last summer the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California could require 30 minute meal breaks for flight attendants every 5 hours, and 10 minute rest breaks every four hours and the Supreme Court declined to review the matter.
The ruling applies to flight attendants based in California even when they’re traveling out of state. And it made basing flight attendants in California more expensive.
While the AFA-CWA flight attendants union supported the suit, they came to regret it, fearing that their members would see the closure of California flight attendant bases and have to move. They never considered these rest issues important enough to bargain for in their union contracts and supported legislation to overturn the court ruling they fought for.
Now legislation is moving forward in the California legislature to exempt airlines from the state’s rest rules.
- Flight attendants wouldn’t be subject to state rest rules as long as they are “covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement under the Railway Labor Act and that agreement includes a provision addressing meal and rest breaks for airline cabin crew employees”
- They’d also be exempt if they are represented by a union that doesn’t yet have a contract, or doesn’t have a contract addressing these issues – but that exemption lasts only 12 months (to give them time for such a contract) or longer provided the union agrees in writing to extend the period.
In other words, agreed-upon labor standards would trump state law. And union airlines would receive an exemption from the law, while non-union carriers would face higher regulatory costs.
Cabin crew at American, Southwest, United, Alaska, Spirit and JetBlue are all unionized. flight attendants at Delta Air Lines are not. This not only helps AFA-CWA avoid the costs of its support for the original lawsuit seeking to have airlines covered by state rest rules, it helps them in their battle to unionize Delta.
(HT: Matt B.)