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Flight Attendants Union Sues Labor Department

by Brendan Coyne

Sept. 21, 2005 – Citing unaddressed workplace dangers in airplane cabins, a union representing flight attendants filed suit against the US Secretary of Labor and the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday.

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Filed in the District Court, the Association of Flight Attendants–Communication Workers of America (AFA-CWA) lawsuit charges that both federal agencies have failed to enforce federal labor regulations and are shirking their obligation to compel private companies to provide a clean and safe work environment. The union is seeking an injunction to force the Labor Department to enforce its own regulations.

The Labor Department ceded a portion of its responsibility over workplace conditions to the FAA in 1975, just five years after the Occupational Safety and Health Act empowered the Department to enforce health and safety regulations. Now, according to the union, neither agency is properly monitoring the nation’s civil airlines.

"For 30 years we’ve been trying to get the FAA to take responsibility, but they have repeatedly ignored the health and safety of flight attendants," said Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President in an e-mailed statement announcing the suit. "By their own admission, the FAA has failed to recognize the aircraft cabin as a workplace. It is long past time for that attitude to be reversed."

The union noted that Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that illness and injury reports for flight attendants are twice those of construction workers and four times the number reported by private businesses. Among the hazards attendants face are toxic chemicals, sudden changes in cabin pressure, "unruly" passengers and threats of terrorism, the AFA statement said.

Spokespeople with the FAA and DoL have yet to comment on the legal action, Bloomberg News reported.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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