American Air Union Tells Flight Attendants to Prepare for Strike

(Bloomberg) -- The union for American Airlines Group Inc. flight attendants said its members should prepare for a strike after federal mediators overseeing intense negotiations ordered both sides to continue talks in an effort to reach a contract agreement.

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The National Mediation Board set additional dates for discussions between the carrier and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants after more than a week of meetings failed to produce an agreement, according to a person familiar with the matter. Prior to the Friday extension, the NMB indicated it would halt formal discussions if a deal wasn’t reached by the end of May, Bloomberg reported earlier.

“While these delays are frustrating, we also know that the company’s ability to stall these negotiations is rapidly reaching an end,” the union said in a message to members late Friday. “All flight attendants need to prepare for a strike.”

The union expects the NMB to order the two sides back to talks in the next two weeks “for one last ditch effort” to agree on contract terms, the message said. American and APFA remain divided over compensation and work-scheduling issues, the union said.

The airline declined to comment.

The NMB must find that the talks have reached an impasse and offer to arbitrate unresolved issues before it releases the parties from further negotiations, triggering a 30-day “cooling off” period prior to a possible strike. It wasn’t immediately clear if the panel had set a new deadline for an agreement.

The NMB’s latest decision at least delays the potential for a walkout at the start of the crucial summer travel season. American is already reeling from a crisis over an ill-fated marketing strategy that has battered its finances and led to the ouster of its commercial chief.

Such a widespread disruption of vacation plans and other travel could also be bad news for President Joe Biden during a difficult reelection campaign.

Read More: American Air, Gate Gourmet Pressed on Contracts to Avoid Strikes

The Railway Labor Act, which governs airline-union relations, keeps an existing contract in place until a new one is negotiated and blocks either side from arbitrarily making changes. It also prevents unions from setting their own deadlines for walkouts.

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