- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Flight attendants at US Airways yesterday authorized a strike if a bankruptcy judge voids their labor agreement.

“Our sisters and brothers have given voice to a clear and unmistakable message: Enough is enough,” said Patricia Friend, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

The union declined to provide the details of the vote.

The Arlington carrier is trying to cut labor costs by $1.08 billion, including $150 million from 5,200 flight attendants.

The strike authorization means flight attendants could disrupt random flights or target specific cities. No date or target for the job action has been set.

While the union threatens a strike, it also is continuing negotiations on a new contract.

Last week, a US Airways executive testified at a bankruptcy hearing that union and management negotiators were $10 million apart from reaching a tentative agreement.

Teddy Xidas, president of the Association of Flight Attendants Local 40, which represents 1,150 flight attendants based in Pittsburgh, and president-elect of the union’s master executive council, said the strike vote gives the union leverage in negotiations.

But if there is no agreement on a new labor contract and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Mitchell allows US Airways to void the labor deal with the flight attendants, they plan to strike.

Even if US Airways negotiates agreements with all its unions on new contracts, it still faces substantial hurdles. The airline probably will need to cut costs further to attract the $250 million in equity it says it needs to leave bankruptcy next year, the company said last week during the ongoing bankruptcy court hearing.

US Airways’ hearing continues today with more testimony about the company’s motion to annul labor agreements, pension plans and some medical benefits for retirees.

The airline reached a tentative deal Dec. 2 with its 6,000-member union representing ticket and reservation agents. US Airways sought concessions of $137 million from the union, which is scheduled to conclude its ratification vote next week.

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