As contract negotiations for flight attendants at United Airlines continue between management and union, a protest has been planned for next week along with a not-so-subtle threat. Meanwhile, United CEO Scott Kirby says negotiations for a new contract are “coming along.”
Pay Us Or Chaos: United Airlines Flight Attendants Plan Day Of Action On December 14th
Last Thursday in Houston I asked United CEO Scott Kirby about contract negotiations with flight attendants and he told me:
“They’re coming along. The truth is the flight attendant negotiations did not really start until after the pilots got their deal done. And these things are big and complicated, especially the work rules, so everyone is working well together. I wish they’d get done overnight, but they never do.”
Hours later, flight attendants wearing red shirts decrying new aircraft before new contracts silently picketed the arrival of United’s inaugural A321neo flight in Chicago O’Hare.
I approached one to better understand his perspective but was told that he was “not permitted” to talk to anyone about contract negotiations.
The two sides continue to meet and the picketing is typically done on a volunteer basis by off-duty flight attendants to raise public awareness over the negotiations.
Meanwhile, the AFA has pinned a rather ominous threat at the top of its X feed:
— AFA United MEC (@AFAUnitedMEC) October 26, 2023
It has also announced that it will hold a “Day of Action” on December 14, 2023, wryly asking if United management wants to be on Santa’s good or naughty list:
We’re hitting the picket line with our holiday spirit: unity and solidarity. We are strengthening our power and demonstrating our unwavering commitment to push for a contract that respects our work and contributions to this world-class airline.
We are the face of United. We are aviation’s first responders, delivering safety and service on every flight to United passengers. As the flying public begins their holiday travels, we will ensure United passengers hear our voices loud and clear. We stand with our Union and our Negotiating Committee for a Contract that we can ratify within the coming months, not years.
United management, which side of Santa’s list do you want to be on?
But if Kirby is correct that negotiations are just beginning, I expect that such talks will continue for many months into 2024 before a deal is reached. A deal will be reached, but as long as it does not have retroactive pay there is no incentive for United management to quickly agree on anything.
Next week you can keep an eye out for off-duty United flight attendants taking part in a day of action to raise public awareness on contract negotiations. While the “pay us or chaos” threat is rather ominous, federal rules governing industrial action will limit the practical extent of such chaos unless the two sides remain in a prolonged stalemate to the point that they are no longer talking.
top image: @AFAUnitedMEC / X