On the Picket Line

United flight attendants protest crew size cuts, grueling schedules

By Nadine Carr
January 7, 2019

CHICAGO — More than 200 United Airlines flight attendants and their supporters picketed at O’Hare airport here Dec. 13 demanding the company reverse planned job cuts and improve attendants’ grueling schedules. Pilots, airline catering workers and other unionists joined the picket in solidarity. It was part of a systemwide day of actions in 11 U.S. cities and London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Guam, and Frankfurt, Germany.

“Sick of getting Cored” was a popular sign and chant. Flight attendants explained this was a reference to United bosses’ hypocritical blather about what the company says are its “Core4” values — “safe, caring, dependable, efficient.”

“The boiling point was their decision to cut staffing on international flights,” Erica Levy, local council president of the Association of Flight Attendants here, told the Militant. United is planning to reduce the number of flight attendants assigned to wide-body international flights from 11 to 10 as of Feb. 1. “It will affect safety and service,” Levy said. “The airlines are cutting staff to give more money to their stockholders.”

Other grievances include schedules flight attendants consider unsafe — particularly long overnight shifts — and problems with a new computer system that has led to delays in workers being paid and getting hotel rooms so they can rest between flights. As the company reconfigures planes to squeeze in more passengers, it has affected their ability to safely move around the cabin, Levy said.