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American Airlines flight attendants ask for permission to strike

TEXAS (AP) – American Airlines flight attendants are asking federal officials for the right to go on strike, possibly before the end of the Christmas and New Year’s travel rush, but American said there was “no possibility” of a walkout over the holidays.

Leaders of the flight attendants’ union say they are frustrated with the lack of progress in negotiations over a new contract for workers who have not seen raises since 2019.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants petitioned the National Mediation Board on Monday to declare the negotiations deadlocked and give the union permission to strike after a 30-day “cooling-off period”.

Meanwhile, pilots at Southwest opened a “strike centre” in Dallas this week. Officials with the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association say they too will ask for the right to strike if they don’t have a contract deal with the airline in the next few days. A digital clock on the wall at the pilots’ union headquarters ticked down toward a potential strike on December 29.

It is far from certain that either union will go on strike, however. Federal law makes it very hard for airline workers to walk off the job or for carriers to lock out workers. Strikes and lockouts are legal only if federal mediators take the rare step of declaring that negotiations are at an impasse and that either side may resort to “self help”. Even then, the president or Congress can block a strike that might hurt the economy.

American disputed the flight attendants’ union claim that negotiations are stalemated. In a statement, the airline said that for months it has been offering the union an “industry-leading economic proposal”, and progress continues on other contract items.

American Airlines planes at LaGuardia Airport, New York, United States. PHOTO: AP