Media Blackout Imposed in AA Contract Talks

Flight attendants and company continue negotiations

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    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)

    A federal mediator wants American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants to focus on talking to each other and not the media. The mediator imposed a media blackout on contract talks between AA and its flight attendants, both sides said Thursday.

    David Roscow, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said the mediator wants both sides to focus on negotiations and not make any public comments until they are over.

    On Wednesday, both sides met at the Washington office of the Federal Mediation Service and did not emerge until about 7 p.m. ET.

    The talks are scheduled to wrap up Friday afternoon.

    On Wednesday, flight attendants overwhelmingly gave union leaders the right to call a strike. But before that could happen, the mediator would have to declare an impasse in negotiations and start a 30-day “cooling off” period.

    The vote passed by 96.8 percent, with 90 percent of the union's 18,000 members voting, said Laura Glading, president of theAssociation of Professional Flight Attendants.

    "This means that the flight attendants are sending the message loud and clear that they're willing to do whatever they need to do in order to get a fair agreement," Glading said on Wednesday before the mediator’s order not to talk publicly.

    Flight attendants are seeking to re-coup some of the 33 percent pay cuts they accepted in 2003 when the airline was on the verge of bankruptcy. The airline has said its employees are among the best paid in the industry, and that it spends $600 million more than its competitors in labor costs.

    Missy Latham, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth-based carrier, confirmed the media blackout and said she could not discuss specifics of the negotiations.