American Airlines flight attendants have a new deal, but old scars from years of bitter contract negotiations remain obvious.
"It's important to remember who caused this horrible situation: Once again, our current management team," said Association of Professional Flight Attendants Vice President Marcus Gluth.
With 60 percent of members voting in favor of the contract proposal, the union approved terms that include:
a buyout for flight attendants who are close to retirement
guaranteed raises for the next five years
a 3 percent stake in the new American Airlines
It’s a far better offer than what the airline laid out more than six months ago when it started the "1113" bankruptcy process for negotiating with its unions.
Gluth likened the vote to choosing between shooting the union in the head or the foot. It is holding out hope for a merger with US Airways.
"We firmly believe the only way for American to grow and compete and perhaps even survive is through a merger that puts [US Airways CEO] Doug Parker and his team in charge," said APFA President Laura Glading, adding that she had "zero confidence" in American’s current management team.
American says it knows the vote was difficult, but called the nearly $200 million in labor savings an important step.
With six transport worker groups already in agreement with the airline, the lone holdout is the Allied Pilots Association. The APA faces the real possibility that a bankruptcy judge will throw out pilot contracts and let American put its own rules in place.
Still, the airline knows it needs a new labor deal to make the reorganized company appealing to investors and creditors.
"With the pilots, we'll move forward with the court supervised 1113 process,” said Bruce Hicks, an American Airlines spokesman. “We'll resume negotiations at some point to reach a consensual agreement down the road. We need that, and we want that with every group."
It's unlikely the pilots will negotiate new terms before the judge rules on September 4.
The flight attendants said they finally realized that dealing with a company in bankruptcy, this is as good as terms will get.
The new agreement includes a "me, too" provision. If the APA negotiates better terms that flight attendants and transport workers received, those unions will also get the benefits of the better terms.