US Airways flight attendants picket while seeking new contract

US Airways flight attendants picket while seeking new contract


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on November 14, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 14 at 6:57 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- US Airways flight attendants picketed Wednesday both in Charlotte and across the country as a show of support for negotiators working toward a new contract and to show the airline how far they are willing to go if necessary to get a new deal.

A seven-year bankruptcy era contract with US Airways expired last year.  Two attempts to ratify a new deal fell short, with the most recent rank and file vote failing by fewer than 100 votes despite an endorsement by the Association of Flight Attendants.

US Airways flight attendants are now in the midst of a strike vote which ends November 20.  The vote is a show of support for their side but does not mean a strike is imminent or expected.

However, flight attendants have been beefing up on strike tactics called CHAOS, or "Creating Havoc Across Our Systems" by watching a video about how Alaska Airlines flight attendants won a new contract by creating random problems and unpredictability.

"So, where do we strike? When do we strike? What do we strike? I don't know, and none of you know and none of management knows and none of the traveling public knows," a woman says in the video circa 1993, when Alaska Airlines and its flight attendants battled over wages and benefits.

Those are tactics US Airways flight attendants could employ—if it ever gets to that point.  Examples include random strikes, not showing up for flight and in-flight protests.  The unpredictability caused by CHAOS is meant to affect bookings.

It is unpredictability business traveler Rick Starry says he would have no time for.

"I'm on a pretty tight schedule when it comes to business travel, so I would have to search for alternative travel," Starry said.

It is a potential strike threat flight attendants would rather avoid by getting back to the negotiating table and hammering out a new, non-bankruptcy deal.  It is now up to a mediation board to bring both sides back to the table.

Wednesday in Charlotte, dozens of flight attendants chanted and held signs.  Pilots were in the crowd offering their support as well.

"I think it really shows the frustration of the membership," said flight attendant and Master Executive Council Member Mark Gentile.

Flight attendants gave up significant concessions to keep US Airways alive during bankruptcy.  Now that the airline has merged with America West and is eyeing American Airlines, they want more money and better benefits.

"Now they're recording record profits and I think it's time that you're going to have to reward your labor groups," Gentile said.

US Airways says had the last offer been signed, flight attendants would have gotten 14 to 35 percent raises.

The picketing did not disrupt US Airways service because picketers were all off duty.