Union leader at American plays down strike chances

AP News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2011 7:40 PM
Union leader at American plays down strike chances

A union president at American Airlines said Thursday that federal officials aren't likely to let flight attendants go on strike because of the weak condition of the economy and the airline.

The union and the airline have been negotiating for nearly three years. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants wants pay raises while the airline says labor costs are already too high.

By law, airline workers can't strike unless federal mediators declare a deadlock in negotiations and trigger a 30-day "cooling-off period." Mediators have declined to end the talks at American.

Union President Laura Glading said mediators cited the economy and health of the airline as factors last month. American parent AMR Corp. was the only major U.S. airline company to lose money in 2010 and analysts expect another loss this year.

"Based on the totality of these circumstances we must, reluctantly but realistically, conclude that (mediators) will not release the parties into a 30-day cooling off period any time soon," Glading said in a message to flight attendants.

American Airlines spokesman Susan Gordon said the company would try to reach a contract that meets the needs of both sides and preserves jobs.

"The economic realities that the company and employees are facing are a challenge," she said.

American is negotiating with two other unions, including pilots. Ground workers also asked for permission to strike after 30 days.