United Airlines has fired two of their flight attendants who were also representatives of the Flight Attendant Union after an investigation concluded they had filed fake complaints against another crew member.
The flight attendants retaliated against their colleague because he previously reported a senior attendant to the company for violating safety procedures – such action is prohibited under United Airlines code of conduct for employees.
This matter already escalated and the union filed a lawsuit against United which has been dismissed by the court, concluding that United is fully within it’s rights to terminate the employment of the two individuals.
I got aware of this after Gary wrote about it on his blog View From The Wing. The comments on his article got extremely heated (more about this later).
This is the memo sent to crews by United’s VP for Inflight Services:
Inflight Services Team,
Yesterday, AFA leadership sent you a communication about the termination of two United flight attendants who also serve as union representatives. Since the AFA has chosen to publicize this, I want to ensure you have all the facts.
This started last year when a fellow United flight attendant raised a legitimate safety concern to United, which led to the discipline of two flight attendants. In response, two union representatives presented unrelated allegations of misconduct by the reporting flight attendant to United, which proved to be completely false. These false reports resulted in a number of investigations over several months. In these investigations, flight attendants revealed that the information against the reporting flight attendant was solicited by the two union representatives.
We do not tolerate retaliation, period. Under the United-AFA CBA and established Company policies, United must investigate allegations of retaliation. Moreover, ANY employee engaged in retaliation will be investigated, and if found in violation of Company policy, will be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment. There is no exception to this policy nor is there a different standard of conduct for employees who also are Union representatives. In other words, it is not an option to ignore complaints of retaliation – even if the employees who are the subject of the complaints are also union representatives.
The AFA took no action to address the misconduct of their representatives and offered no suggestions other than to have United cease the investigation. They filed a lawsuit last summer in the federal court in Washington, DC alleging that United violated the Railway Labor Act by issuing Letters of Investigation to the two flight attendants who also held roles with the AFA Local. The court dismissed their lawsuit in January and found that “the union’s position would provide union
representatives with complete immunity from discipline for acts in violation of the
CBA so long as those violations took place while conducting union duties,” and would, therefore “permit union representatives to retaliate against flight attendants who take disfavored actions.” The court found no support for such a “cloak of immunity.”
We agree. We will make sure that you can report safety concerns without fear of retaliation or consequences. If retaliation is found, we will take action – regardless of who was involved. That’s my commitment to you.
United and the AFA have worked collaboratively through one of the most challenging times in aviation history and will continue to be advocates on our flight attendants’ behalf. I look forward to a good working relationship with the AFA, but our top priority will always be protecting our people.
This isn’t a situation that suddenly came up and was quickly handled by someone, resulting in the dismissal of two employees.
There was an extensive investigation into what happened, including in the initial incident that involved one flight attendant reporting two senior crew members about some violation, allegedly not wearing their masks. You know, the same thing you and I get booted off the plane for, banned by the airline, and levied with high fines by the government.
During this situation, the junior flight attendant took pictures and reported them to United. Now here is the thing, is this something I’d do to my colleagues if I’m on a good footing with them? no. But knowing the kind of despicable, arrogant behavior senior crew often exhibit even towards their own colleagues I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an earlier incident preceding this.
The Flight Attendant Union was the first party that went public with this and United felt compelled to issue the above statement.
Here is what the AFA had to say about this:
… Moments ago, United management took an unbelievable step to fire two union representatives. This comes after a string of firings of long-serving Flight Attendants. All of these actions are outrageous.
For months, the United Master Executive Council and the AFA International Office have encouraged United management to find a solution to the underlying dispute. Despite these efforts to resolve, we were forced to take the rare step of filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court over violations of the Railway Labor Act. While the Court did not rule on the merits of the dispute, United management has made a deliberate choice to forge ahead, ignoring our legal and contractual rights.
The potential damage here threatens to undermine the collaborative relationship that has worked so well to get us through the largest crisis ever facing United Airlines and our industry. These accomplishments should not be so hastily cast aside because damage from this type of an aggressive approach cannot easily be undone. Management has even gone so far as to try to tell us who will represent our Members. This is unprecedented and unacceptable. †
What a joke!
Their senior representatives were caught red-handed instigating and filing a false, compromising report about another flight attendant after he reported a crew member to the company for violating safety procedures. This is clearly against any agreements that are in place between the union and United, lacks common decadence and it could also be subject to legal action that the employee in question might want to discuss with his attorneys.
Being a union representative doesn’t give employees a carte blanche to violate company rules and conditions of their work contract. It was clear from the beginning that their actions were subject to punishment and they deserved everything that was coming to them.
Maybe the union should find some representatives who can read agreements and are able to ascertain good judgment before engaging in sabotage against the company and other staff. This was way over the line!
Now I quickly want to talk about some comments people have left on social media and Gary’s article as referenced above, many of them undoubtedly being posted by other flight crew and the AFA union goons.
Apparently (in their view) this shouldn’t have been reported to United but rather handled internally through a union complaint channel. We all know what would have come out of that – nothing. It’s the Union investigating itself as if that ever worked. “We clean our own dirty laundry” … where have you heard that before? Oh yeah, the mafia.
Unions do provide value in many industries and keep employers (especially large corporations) in check but they shouldn’t be elevated to a position where they can abuse collective bargaining power to violate regulations and break the law. The reasoning by the court why the lawsuit got dismissed speaks a clear language as well. Being a union member or representative doesn’t grant someone immunity against wrongdoing and therefore consequences for actions will be the same as for any other common employee: YOU’RE FIRED!
A United Airlines Flight Attendant has reported two colleagues in 2021 allegedly over taking off their face masks on a flight, taken a picture, and reported it to the company. As a result, the union representatives retaliated against this crewmember by instigating false reports about his own conduct that have found to be untrue and been completely disproven.
As a result, United identified two employees and terminated their employment due to their misconduct which is against agreement and procedure. United Airlines has clearly written rules that prohibit retaliation against any employee who blows the whistle. The union (AFA) sued but got slapped by the court and the lawsuit was dismissed, therefore making United’s decision to fire the two crew members final. Bye, bye!