US Airways Flight Attendants Seek New Talks After Strike Vote

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ( TheStreet) -- Backed by an overwhelming strike authorization vote, leaders of the US Airways ( LCC) flight attendants union plan to approach the National Mediation Board to seek another round of contract talks.

In results announced Tuesday, of the 4,350 flight attendants who voted, 94%, or 4,100, backed a strike authorization, while 250 were opposed. US Airways has 6,700 flight attendants.

Now, leaders of the US Airways chapters of the Association of Flight Attendants said they "will take our proposal for improved economics to the National Mediation Board -- backed by this strike vote," according to a letter to members from Roger Holmin and Deborah Volpe, presidents of the chapter's two master executive councils. "None of us wants to strike," they said.

So far, the union has failed twice to win members' support for tentative contract agreements. In March, 71% of flight attendants opposed a deal, resulting in the ouster of union President Mike Flores and slight adjustments in the contract proposal. In May, the tentative deal failed by just 50 votes, with 5,527 flight attendants voting. The NMB has the ability to restart negotiations but so far it has failed to do so.

The union's approach has been to rally member support in an effort to show the airline that it needs still more adjustments in the contract proposal, which is generally weighed towards higher pay and less restrictive work rules.

"Our collective job is to continue to back this up," according to the letter to members. "Management needs to see every flight attendant with an AFA pin on and a 'Strike Vote YES' sticker displayed on our bags. We will be pressing the NMB for additional mediation dates to reach an agreement you can ratify. "

Flight attendants last week staged demonstrations at four key US Airways airports. They still work under separate contracts despite a 2005 merger between US Airways and America West.

A background issue has been that the airline, seeking a merger with AMR ( AAMRQ.PK), has signed a tentative contract with American flight attendants, but has not signed one with its own flight attendants.

While strike authorizations are common, strikes themselves are rare. US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr emphasized Tuesday that a strike is not imminent.

"The National Mediation Board has not released the union to strike and therefore there will be no operational or flight disruptions during the holiday travel season," Mohr said in a prepared statement.

"The union has told our flight attendants that the strike vote is about positioning at the bargaining table and not about striking and the union has not requested that the National Mediation Board cease the mediation and negotiations process," she said.

Over the past several weeks the airline has been concerned about inaccurate media reports suggesting that a strike could be near.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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