Flight attendants authorize union to call strike against American Airlines


American Airlines flight attendants authorized their union leaders today to call a strike against the second-largest U.S. carrier if they are freed from further negotiations.

About 97 percent of those voting cast ballots to support a walkout, Association of Professional Flight Attendants President Laura Glading told members in a recorded message. Discussions are proceeding today between Fort Worth, Texas-based American and the group, which represents 16,550 of its active attendants.

The vote is a signal to American’s management that the attendants will push toward a strike unless contract issues including compensation and retiree benefits are resolved. A walkout can’t occur until the union and American, owned by AMR Corp., complete several additional steps required under a federal law governing airline labor talks.

American is ready to move forward “with any proposal that makes good economic and operational sense,” Missy Latham, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “It is unfortunate the APFA chose to make this announcement while we are in mediated sessions this week.”

Contract discussions resumed yesterday, about a month after the National Mediation Board ordered the two sides back to the bargaining table. Flight attendants had asked the board to find talks at an impasse and trigger a 30-day cooling off period that must come before a strike.

“With this vote, the company now knows without a doubt we are unified and willing to do whatever is necessary to get the contract we deserve,” Glading said. Ninety percent of attendants voted, a record turnout.