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American Airlines flight attendants stage mock strike

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Flight attendants at American Airlines have a message for the company - a strike could be disruptive.

Hundreds of flight crews wore red buttons Wednesday indicating that if a strike occurred, that particular flight would not take off. The "red flights" are an effort to put pressure on the company in contract negotiations.

"Had this been a job action, those people would not be there," said Tim Hunter, the chairman of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants in St. Louis, which represents the 400 or so American attendants based here. "Their travel plans would be disrupted, American would be inconveniencing the passengers simply because they refuse to negotiate with us."

Contract negotiations have lasted 18 months, Hunter said, and the company refuses to budge from its "zero-sum" contract proposal.

"They want to go after our medical benefits, they want to increase the amount that we have to pay for our medical benefits, they want to increase the number of hours we fly, and we would be trading all of that for some small amount of compensation increase," he said.

Hunter said he expects intense bargaining in December, when the union and the company, along with a federal mediator, will go back to the table. But if no deal is reached by the end of the year, Hunter said, the union will ask for a 30-day cooling-off period - the last step before a possible strike. The union would not strike before the end of the year.

In a statement, an American spokeswoman said the company is pleased with the progress of negotiations, and attendants receive pay and benefit packages that are among the best in the industry.