Airlines' Union OKs Plan for Strike; Labor Contracts Being Targeted

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Byline: William Glanz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The union leadership representing flight attendants at US Airways Group Inc. and other airlines unanimously approved a resolution yesterday authorizing a strike.

The resolution is the latest step for the flight attendants' union as it struggles to hold onto jobs and wages within the troubled airline industry.

A strike would not likely occur during the coming holiday season because the union leadership must submit the strike authorization to its rank and file for a vote, which could take weeks. US Airways contends that federal law will prevent an immediate action by workers.

The board of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 46,000 workers at 26 airlines, threatened during its meeting in Pittsburgh to strike against all airlines if any of their labor agreements are annulled by a bankruptcy judge.

"Airline management needs to understand that there will be serious consequences if they persist in their attacks on our contracts," AFA President Pat Friend said before the board vote.

The strike threat was triggered by US Airways and UAL Corp., the parent of United Airlines.

Arlington-based US Airways asked Bankruptcy Judge Stephen S. Mitchell last week to annul contracts of three unions, including the group representing flight attendants. US Airways is seeking $150 million in concessions from its flight attendants, the union says.

Judge Mitchell already has imposed temporary pay cuts of 21 percent on the flight attendants and members of two other unions.

US Airways also asked the judge to terminate the pensions of 53,000 current and former workers and cut the health benefits of 10,800 retirees.

All told, the measures would save the company more than $1 billion annually. …