MIL-OSI USA: NEWS: Sanders and 31 Senators Call on National Mediation Board to End Delays and Allow Airline Workers to Strike If Agreements Can’t Be Reached

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US Senate News:

Source: United States Senator for Vermont – Bernie Sanders

“These workers were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and were instrumental in saving the airline industry from collapse, but now, in some cases, find themselves working for pre-pandemic wage levels. They deserve better.”

WASHINGTON, June 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today, with 31 of his colleagues in the Senate, called on the National Mediation Board (NMB) to urgently resolve unfairly delayed contract negotiations that have left more than 100,000 flight attendants and airline workers stuck in expired contracts without the ability to strike – all while cost-of-living expenses are on the rise and airline carriers rake in record-breaking profits.

“We are concerned about the increasing number of contract negotiations before the NMB that are being unnecessarily drawn out at the expense of workers,” wrote the senators. “We understand that there are ongoing negotiations that have dragged on for as long as five years and we have heard from workers who are rightfully frustrated that they are being subjected to unfair delays in bargaining. Without new contracts, these workers are left further and further behind…”

The senators continued: “In particular, over 100,000 flight attendants have recently been or currently are stuck in contract negotiations with many working under contracts that expired several years ago. Earlier this year, tens of thousands of flight attendants around the world rallied to demand fair contracts from six airlines. These workers were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and were instrumental in saving the airline industry from collapse, but now, in some cases, find themselves working for pre-pandemic wage levels. They deserve better.”

Under federal law, flight attendants, rail workers, and others in the transportation industry are not legally permitted to go on strike without an authorizing vote by the NMB. Since 2006, airline workers have only been permitted to strike twice, the last of which was 14 years ago during the Spirit Airlines Pilot strike of 2010. However, the NMB permitted dozens of strikes during the 1980s and 1990s.

“Unfortunately, it seems airline carriers do not feel pressured to reach agreements quickly, likely because the flight attendants’ ability to strike has rarely been allowed to be exercised…” concluded the senators. “We are concerned that this fact has contributed to the present pattern of unending negotiations and that many carriers are taking advantage of the situation. Therefore, we join with our 178 colleagues in the House to urge the Board to use all of the tools at your disposal, including releasing parties from mediation as necessary, to resolve these long-pending contract negotiations.”

Sanders was joined on the letter by 31 of his colleagues in the Senate including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

“When negotiations drag on for three to more than five years it’s clearly time to call the question,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing nearly 55,000 Flight Attendants at 20 airlines. “Airline executives have believed they have a free pass to delay conclusion of negotiations, while richly rewarding themselves. No more! Flight Attendants and other aviation workers are ready to back up demands for long overdue record contracts. The strike is not the goal, but it is the means in these situations to get real on getting a deal. Thanks to Senator Sanders for coordinating this Senate letter that simply calls on the National Mediation Board to utilize workers’ right to strike in the Railway Labor Act to conclude these disputes and get workers relief with contracts we can ratify.”

“Contract negotiations must have reasonable deadlines in order for both parties to be motivated to reach an agreement,” Julie Hedrick, National President, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 28,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants. “APFA thanks Senator Bernie Sanders for leading this letter to the National Mediation Board that says exactly that. It’s been five years since APFA members worked under an updated contract and our members are not able to wait any longer. Thank you to the 32 Senators who joined in backing this message in support of improving wages and working conditions for hardworking Flight Attendants.”

Read the full letter here.