Outcome of AA Labor Negotiations Up in the Air

Could summer travel plans be grounded by union strike?

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    American Airlines has reached a tentative agreement with one union, but the airline is still in negotiations with at least eight other groups.

    American Airlines has reached a tentative agreement with one union, but the airline is still in negotiations with at least eight other groups.

    Baggage handlers, flight attendants and pilots are among those still locked in bitter negotiations with the company, with the busy summer travel season just weeks away.

    The unions representing ground workers and flight attendants do not rule out the possibility of a strike.

    AA's Intense Labor Talks

    [DFW] AA's Intense Labor Talks
    Could your summer travel plans be grounded by a union strike?

    "I think our members are committed, and they'll be resolute if the time comes," said John Conley, the president of the Transport Workers Union.

    "The flight attendants are serious, and that we will do what we have to do in order to get a fair agreement," said Laura Glading, president of the Flight Attendants Union.

    But American Airlines says summer travelers shouldn't worry about strikes affecting their plans.

    "We're a long way off from anything like that happening, so customers should feel confident," said AA spokeswoman Missy Latham.

    Mechanics, which are also represented by the Transport Workers Union, reached a tentative contract agreement, American announced Wednesday. However, a union spokesman called the company's statement "premature."

    Leaders of the groups still negotiating with the airline say talks have deadlocked over pay, benefits, work hours and the outsourcing of jobs.

    "The company has just slammed on the breaks and is unwilling to move," Glading said. "It's very, very frustrating."

    The airline says it is committed to the negotiations.

    "We're still negotiating, and we're trying to be creative," Latham said. "One-hundred percent of our efforts are focused on getting negotiated agreements."

    But Conley said that's not how things have gone at the bargaining table.

    "I can't say that the behavior has always matched the words," he said.

    The ground workers and flight attendants meet again with federal mediators this month. Both groups have asked to be released from mediation.

    If the National Mediation Board grants the request, a 30-day countdown that could lead to a strike would begin. But no one knows if mediators will release the groups from talks.

    The Transport Workers Union said talks with ground workers are hung up over the company's plan to outsource hundreds of jobs.

    "I'm interested to secure fair agreements across the board for our members," Conley said. "That does not include the outsourcing and fleet service of jobs."

    The main sticking points for flight attendants are pay and health care costs, Glading said.

    "It's as if they're putting $100 into one pocket and taking $200 out of the other pocket by increasing the costs for benefits," she said.

    American Airlines says it is offering a pay increase, but also wants flight attendants to work more than the current 77-hour-per-month max.

    "And that's lower than any other airline that we compete with, so what we'd like to do is be able to increase that to come a little bit closer to what flight attendants in the industry are doing," Latham said.

    "What they have to do is change the way they schedule flight attendants and make their scheduling more efficient, and we have given them ways to do that," Glading said.

    A clearer picture of the chances for strikes should emerge by the end of May. The flight attendants head back to mediation on May 18, and mediation with ground workers continues through the month.

    American's pilots are also involved in bitter negotiations, but those talks have stalled while the union elects new leadership this summer.

    NBC DFW's Scott Friedman contributed to this report.

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