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Flight attendants push for new contract at Phoenix Sky Harbor

Dozens of flight attendants from several airlines walked out at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Tuesday. At Terminals 3 and 4, they chanted and demanded better pay and working conditions.

Because it was an educational demonstration and not a strike, there was no work stoppage, according to the media relations team at United Airlines. A Sky Harbor official also said there has been no impact to airport operations.

The Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transportation Workers Union of America are seeking updated union contracts.

The walkout in Phoenix is part of a larger wave across the country, with workers walking out at 30 airports, according to the unions.

“We’ve been at the negotiating table for over two years,” said Peter Coenen, a representative of AFA Council 9, which represents United Airlines flight attendants based in Phoenix and Denver. “We are demanding a fair and industry-leading contract with pay improvements, schedule flexibility and shorter work days.”

Because of the Railway Labor Act, which also pertains to airlines, the contract dispute doesn’t involve a contract expiration like in other industries, according to Michael Massoni, first vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 556. Massoni is also a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

“The airlines have weaponized the RLA by dragging out the contract because they know it’s really hard to have a strike,” Massoni said.

According to Massoni, it’s been five years of fighting for a contract amendment and seeing pilots granted updated contracts during that time.

“We’re simply trying to reach out to management just to let them know, ‘Hey, enough is enough; we want a contract now,’” Coenen said. “It seems like management keeps stalling. Ultimately they have to negotiate a contract, there’s no escaping.”

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a corrected photo credit.

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