Flight attendants at United Airlines were warned not to engage in “self-help” at this point in contract negotiations, which includes failing to charge passengers for food and drinks sold onboard.
United Airlines Flight Attendant Union: Don’t Comp Alcohol Or Food Behind The Curtain
In a November 21, 2023 memo to United flight attendants sent by the AFA-CWA, the union representing them, flight attendants are warned to avoid common stunts like coordinated “sick-outs” that run afoul of the Railway Labor Act, which governs contract negotiations.
Dear Flying Partners,
As negotiations intensify, we must be careful on social media about how we talk about negotiations and how to pressure the Company.
Under the Railway Labor Act, we cannot engage in “self-help” until we have been in federally supervised mediation for a period of time and only after the National Mediation Board releases us following a thirty-day cooling-off period. The National Mediation Board has discretion over whether to grant a release to strike.
What this means is we are not able to engage in any self-help at this point in time. Examples of self-help include calls to not pick up open time, calls for “work to rule,” refusing to perform duties, any disruption of the Company’s operation over the holiday period, refusing to charge customers for buy-on-board products, coordinating calling in sick, etc. It is illegal to advocate for such actions before the end of the thirty-day cooling-off period. Individuals could face discipline, and the Union could face injunctions and fines.
This also means that we cannot threaten or discuss that we will engage in any type of self-help or disruptions to United Airlines operations over the upcoming holiday period. That does not help our efforts to reach an agreement and is also illegal.
We have a path to reach an agreement that involves sending a clear message to the Company that 26,000 Flight Attendants are fired up and ready for a contract. Please do not jeopardize yourself or our collective efforts by advocating any such unauthorized and/or illegal activities.
Ken Diaz, President
United Master Executive Council
The memo, first flagged by JonNYC, is publicly available and serves as a window into the next phase of contract negotiations at United. While management and the AFA have meeting regularly for over a year, the two sides are still far apart. United CEO Scott Kirby promised an “industry-leading” contract for pilots, which has now been signed and ratified, but has stopped short of promising the same to flight attendants.
I find the admonition that flight attendants should refrain from “refusing to charge customers for buy-on-board products” an interesting one. Since I have Premier 1K status, I receive a complimentary alcoholic drink and food item every flight, but quite frankly I have not seen a flight attendant comp drinks to my seatmates in years.
Not only is that bad for United’s bottom line, but it is bad for flight attendants’ bottom line too: if United posts a lower profit, their ability to negotiate a more lucrative contract is hindered.
Even so, it appears that some may be willing to comp snacks or alcoholic drinks “in order to stick it to the man” or perhaps in an attempt to gain sympathy from United’s passengers for more generous contacts.
The message from the union is that such self-help should be avoided.
The union representing flight attendants at United Airlines has warned its workers not to comp drinks or food, which could undermine contract negotiations. As a very frequent United flyer, it was not clear to me this was ever a problem in the first place. The warning gives the AFA-CWA plausible deniability if flight attendants should take matters into their own hands.
Have you been comped food or drink from a United flight attendant? If so, does it make you more sympathetic toward flight attendants during this seasons of contract negotiations?
image: United Airlines