This week, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) announced that it was gearing up for a strike vote at Piedmont Airlines. Ballots are being sent to nearly 300 flight attendants in September, with a vote count scheduled for October 21st, 2021. One of the critical issues for flight attendants has been pay.
Piedmont flight attendants will vote on a strike
Strike ballots will be sent out to nearly 300 flight attendants working for Piedmont Airlines over the coming days and weeks. The flight attendants will have time to consider whether they are in favor of a strike or not before votes are scheduled to be counted on October 21st.
At the heart of the issue are contract negotiations between Piedmont Airlines and its flight attendants. According to the AFA, contract negotiations have been ongoing for over three years without a proper end to the talks. The FAFA alleges that flight attendants are underpaid relative to the industry.
Piedmont has proposed pay increases for its flight attendants. However, the AFA states that the increases are not up to a living wage for flight attendants. With proposed increases in health care, the AFA alleges that, in many cases, flight attendants would be taking home less pay than they currently earn.
Keturah Johnson, AFA Piedmont President, did not mince words at the announcement of a strike vote:
“We kept the planes flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and saved Piedmont and the entire American Airlines Group through the Payroll Support Program which helped American with billions of dollars in labor costs. The thanks we get is management demanding concessions. This must stop. Piedmont Flight Attendants cannot afford to work at Piedmont. It’s time management recognizes Flight Attendants and pays us a living-wage.”
Simple Flying reached out to Piedmont Airlines. The carrier offered the following response:
“Piedmont values the work that our more than 350 flight attendants do to take care of our customers and each other every day. We are actively engaged in contract conversations with the AFA to ensure that our team members feel supported and valued and look forward to getting back to negotiations later this month.”
What happens if there is a strike
The AFA states that a lack of progress could lead to involvement from the National Mediation Board (NMB). The NMB would likely declare negotiations deadlocked and release both the airline and flight attendants into a 30-day period of no negotiations leading to a strike deadline.
One of the AFA’s strike strategies is trademarked as CHAOS, which stands for Create Havoc Around Our System. Under CHAOS, the strike could be systemwide or affect a single flight or two. It is up to the union when, where, and how they want to strike without notice to management or passengers.
It is hard to predict when, where, and how a strike will affect passengers with CHAOS. The union may focus its energy on a specific number of flights, rather than the whole system, to raise awareness of the issues while allowing some operations to continue, albeit with some irregularity. Ultimately, the union will decide the strategy with or without warning.
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About Piedmont Airlines
Piedmont is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines. Headquartered in Salisbury, Maryland, Piedmont flies regional jets on behalf of American Airlines. Its planes are painted with the American Eagle banner.
According to data from ch-aviation.com, Piedmont flies a fleet of 57 Embraer ERJ145s. These are 50-seater all-economy regional jets that primarily operate short-haul hops within American’s network. Piedmont’s role is to provide feed to American hubs. Piedmont’s flying is primarily centered around Philadelphia and Charlotte, but it operates flights to other American hubs, like Chicago.
A strike action at Piedmont would impact American’s regional network. There are actions American take to prevent further disruption. American has other regional partners, including SkyWest and its wholly-owned Envoy, among others.
While some airlines are flying equipment larger than the ERJ145, American can try to spread out flying from these hubs and ramp up some presence from these other airlines in the case that there are irregular operations due to a strike action. This becomes a little complicated if American has no notice of the strike. The customers most inconvenienced by the strike would be regional passengers.
A strike is not yet guaranteed. However, it appears the AFA believes that negotiations are not going in the right direction, hence the strike vote. There is still some time for management and Piedmont to come together and reach a deal.
Do you think Piedmont’s flight attendants should strike? Let us know in the comments!