With protesters feared eviction from the Occupy SF encampment this morning, a group of well-coiffed adults in sharp uniforms converged at Justin Herman Plaza.
Like the Sesame Street jingle, these protesters were not like the others: They were clean-cut. They were exceedingly courteous. They smiled a lot.
They were American Airlines flight attendants.
Holding signs that read "Airline workers: Part of the 99 percent," four members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants
union turned out to mark the 18th anniversary of the five-day 1993 American Airlines labor strike
which successfully got the workers better pay and benefits. President
Bill Clinton himself had stepped in to broker the agreement. Now the
union is again locked in three years of contract negotiations with the
company -- and the workers are not happy.
they headed out today to join the Occupy protests nationwide, and gave
the beleaguered SF camp an image-boost in the process. Another
Occupy protester passed by and called, "Bravo!"
The group said they had major concessions in 2003 in what the company's top dogs called a "pull together, win together" strategy to stave off bankruptcy after the airline industry took a nosedive post-9/11. But now, the flight attendants say they haven't gotten raises since 2008, and only 1 percent raises for the three years before that -- all while the top CEOs of the company take home millions of dollars in bonuses, they say.
"They don't deserve to make millions while we lose our houses. A lot [of flight attendants] have lost their houses and marriages," said Julie Hendrick, the union's vice-chair.
"Talk about a slap in the face," added union chair Larry Salas, who looked ready for an airline commercial in his gelled hair and wrap-around shades.
"We're happy we have jobs but tired of the inequities at the top. If we're not making money, don't take the money [in bonuses]," says Brian Berger. He, along with the others, were especially disgusted the company's bigwigs were getting bonuses while customers, paying extra for baggage and food, were crammed into tiny seats on full flights.
"American Airlines used to be a premier carrier," Berger said. "I used to be so proud of this company. Now it's an embarrassment ...people [on the flights] are miserable -- they're in their little spaces."
"We say, 'we're sorry, we're sorry, we don't have this, we don't have that,'" added Heidi Cain.
The flight attendants said today's union action was being replicated at Occupy protests across the country. Several reporters dispatched to the Occupy site this morning awaiting a possible eviction migrated over to snap photos and interview the unlikely new arrivals. Berger said, "We should have brought a beverage cart!"Follow us on Twitter at @SFWeekly and @TheSnitchSF