0 min left

A Flight Attendant’s Thoughts on the APFA Drama

Over the weekend, news broke that Laura Glading, president of American Airlines’ flight attendants union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), announced her resignation. This came just one day before a picketing event by members at the APFA headquarters to push for unseating her.

But wait, there’s more.

Glading’s resignation was initially announced for December 2. The angry members of her union behind this push for her resignation, however, demanded to know why she was staying for two more months and why she was being allowed to do so.

The presumed answer was so Glading would have time to process retirement papers so that she could still leave with special benefits like lifetime, positive space (meaning she could bump a passenger), First Class travel passes — a perk that many union members are not happy about.

The picketing event went forward as planned this week with the renewed focus of pushing for an immediate departure. As of this writing, I received reports that the picketers were shouting their evacuation commands: “Get out! Leave everything! Don’t take anything with you!”

Shortly after, I got word that a member of the union leadership came out to announce Glading’s resignation will now be effective on October 9. Wow. Talk about a quick (and a little surprising) result!

Like so many of these labor stories, it’s often a struggle for the public to understand the conflict. It’s always a long story — this one has roots dating back to 2003 — but it should be understood that anger like this doesn’t come out of nowhere, or overnight. Unfortunately, these stories also lose much of the context when compressed by outsiders into your average three-minute-read news item.

You end up with articles like this one, which claimed that:

“Glading shepherded AA’s flight attendants through bankruptcy, standing up to the company. But hundreds of flight attendants became upset with her in recent months.”

That story sounds a little bit off considering what’s just happened here. From talking with American flight attendants, what they would want you to know is: “Try more like 8,000 flight attendants, minimum, over the course of at least a year, precisely because she didn’t stand up to the company, but rather, seems to be one of them.”

To be fair, Glading surely has her own perspective, and that is shared by some union members. She still had her fervent supporters, as seen by the messages left on her Facebook page in response to her departure. Those people will not be among those cheering tonight.

At the heart of the passionate division is the first combined contract for American and US Airways flight attendants, which began to take effect early this year. You may have noticed the wave in the ocean then, when it made news after being voted down by just 16 votes — even though the alternative was not renegotiation, but simply the same contract, just with less money.

That last sentence pretty much sums up the understanding, as well as the resulting bewilderment, of reporters who wrote about the situation then. No wonder much of the coverage looked like this and this, articles which, respectively, called the no vote the actions of petulant children and a decision in which flight attendants simply “screwed themselves” inexplicably.

I will give credit to this author, who returned to share and answer some of the explanations he had gotten from American flight attendants in response to his coverage. He’s the exception, however, from how so many seem to have an opinion about our job, if not all the facts. No one can say Glading didn’t know the whole story, but it has been said to me that she was as dismissive of the membership’s concerns and feelings as the articles above. Ouch. Picketing is always about people who feel they’re not being listened to. When that feeling gets as high as one’s own union, trouble will brew.

Most people don’t want the whole story. That would, admittedly, take pages and pages to tell, but if you have the interest, SavvyStews has reported on the entire saga since it really warmed up last year. The most helpful piece may be the one about how some cabin crew have asked the Department of Justice to investigate “employee price-fixing” accusations. Clearly there are suspicions of serious wrongdoing and, whether or not these will ever prove to be true, it tells you a little something about their side of the story. The aforementioned articles were right to be confused about one thing, namely: no one turns down a load of money for no reason. It’s those reasons that descended on APFA headquarters today.

If the merger stories of Delta and United tell A Tale of Two Mergers, one paying off big time and the other seeming to play out in the inverse, it remains to be seen which performance American and US Airways’ merger will most resemble in the end. Things have gone relatively well on the technical side, but Glading’s dramatic departure exposes labor resentment that could point the compass in Chicago’s direction on the customer service side. I can’t imagine anybody wants that.

[Photos: iStock; Laura Glading APA, Facebook]

Comments are Closed.
FlyingFriendlySkies October 11, 2015

AA and Laura Glading fought long and hard to match Delta's payrate. Their binding abritration gave then far less, but management gave them Delta's rate. Now Delta has increased FA pay by 14.5% with AA's contract inked and lagging far behind. GO NON-UNION DELTA!