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Vol. 74/No. 3      January 25, 2010

(front page)
Flight attendants at United
protest pay, job conditions
Militant/Betsey Stone
Flight attendants and their supporters rally in San Francisco January 7 to protest deteriorating job conditions and demand higher wages.

SAN FRANCISCO—Some 200 United Airlines flight attendants and supporters picketed at the San Francisco airport January 7. “We’re overworked and underpaid, United Airlines has got it made!” they chanted.

The protest, organized by the Association of Flight Attendants-Communication Workers of America, reflects the growing anger of flight attendants about their wages, loss of pensions, rising health-care costs, and deteriorating job conditions. Similar actions took place at 17 airports around the world.

Workers at United, including flight attendants, pilots, baggage handlers, and other ramp workers, took deep concessions after United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Thousands of workers were laid off. Flight attendant’s pay was cut 9 percent.

The flight attendants’ union estimates that over the past seven years, the combined cost to flight attendants of concessions in pay, work conditions, health care, and termination of pensions for all but the most senior workers comes to more than $3 billion.

The January 7 “Day of Action” was called for the date that the union contract is open to amendments. Negotiations have been taking place since April, but according to union officials the company has stalled on reversing the pay cuts and other concessions and is demanding further takeaways.

United Airlines management says they want to “change the scope” of flight attendant’s duties, “remove restrictions” on the company’s right to select hotels where attendants stay on layover between flights, and achieve “critical productivity” improvements.

Among the changes the company is demanding are fewer paid holidays, reducing the amount of rest required between flights, eliminating some crew meals, decreasing vacation days, and allowing other employees and contractors to do work done by flight attendants.

“United Airlines running late with my pay,” “Living at 1994 wages,” and “The only thing ahead of schedule at United: Executive pay,” were signs carried by the picketers.

Sharon Caldwell, a flight attendant at United since the early 1990s, was one of many who expressed outrage at the belt tightening imposed on workers, while millions of dollars in bonuses have been given to company executives. “We’re working harder, with smaller crews on the flights, and we’re the ones footing the bill!” Caldwell said.

United has laid off more than 2,000 flight attendants in the last two years.

Some 1,800 people, including pilots, mechanics, and other workers at United as well as flight attendants from other airlines, joined the protests worldwide.
Related articles:
On the Picket Line  
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