CHICAGO - JULY 02: American Airlines flight attendants arrive for work at O'Hare International Airport July 2, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. American Airlines says it may cut 900 flight attendant jobs as it reduces its daily flights to help deal with high fuel prices. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The union that represents American Airlines flight attendants plans to schedule a strike vote of its membership to gauge their willingness to strike, the union's president said Tuesday.
"We will be sending the ballots out, it's just a matter of the timing," said Laura Glading, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants told NBCDFW, speaking during a break from union board meetings under way in Irving.
The flight attendants also plan to seek a release from federal mediation as early as next week, a first legal maneuver that could eventually lead to a strike. Glading said she has asked the National Mediation Board for a meeting on March 15, to allow the union to make its case for ending the mediated talks, which would start the clock on a 30-day cooling off period before the union could legally strike.
The flight attendants are fighting for increased pay and benefits after accepting cuts in 2002, in a deal that helped American avoid bankruptcy. Airline management has offered some wage increases, tied to increased productivity. But the two sides still appear to be far apart.
After another round of talks ended last week without resolution, the airline issued a statement indicating it is not ready to end the mediation process saying, "The parties are awaiting the next steps from the mediator, and look forward to continuing to bargain when the mediator establishes the next set of dates."
Glading said the union would conduct a road show visiting with groups of members across the country - in conjunction with the strike balloting process. A "yes" vote would authorize the union board to call a strike after the cooling-off period expires.