Friday AM January 21st, 2011

A battle is shaping up between the unions representing the flight attendants of merging airlines United and Continental. Andrew Schneider reports.

airplane wing in the skyThe Association of Flight Attendants speaks for the 15,000 flight attendants at United Airlines. It’s asking the National Mediation Board to rule that United’s merger with Continental Airlines forms a single transportation system. That would require an election to determine who gets to represent the combined workforce.

“I can say categorically that we do not believe that the flight attendant classification meets the standard as established by the federal government at this point. The flight attendants wear different uniforms. They’re in different structures. They don’t fly the same routes. So we don’t think it’s a single carrier for their purpose.”

That’s Robert Roach Jr., general vice president for the International Association of Machinists, which represents Continental’s 9500 flight attendants. He says his members earn $12 an hour more than United attendants, as well as enjoying a better retirement plan and other benefits. Roach says they’d lose all that if forced to join the AFA.

For its part, the AFA says a single union for the combined workforce would have a stronger bargaining position with management. It’s unclear how long it will take for National Mediation Board to issue a ruling.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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