Union again setting sights on Frontier flight attendants

Another year, another attempt to unionize Frontier Airlines flight attendants.

The Association of Flight Attendants is again campaigning to represent Frontier's 1,000 attendants. The union, which represents more than 55,000 workers at 20 airlines, is collecting authorization cards from flight attendants in favor of the move. It needs support from at least 35 percent of Frontier's attendants to hold an election, but the organization says it aims for a much higher mark.

The AFA said an increasing number of Frontier attendants have expressed interest in trying to organize under the union's umbrella.

"As time's gone on, there has been more support in terms of flight attendants contacting us," said Deborah Volpe, an AFA organizer and a flight attendant with US Airways. "There's a significant level of interest."

There have been numerous attempts to unionize Frontier's attendants in the past, all of which came up short. Most recently, flight attendants struck down the opportunity last fall to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The AFA has tried four times since 1998, coming up 45 votes short in 2005. A group of Frontier flight attendants also explored starting an independent union.

So what's different this time around?

"We're hearing from people who traditionally didn't want to join in the past," Volpe said. "They're not angry, they're just in an industry that is so volatile and ever-changing. And no matter how benevolent the executives are, the reality is nothing in place is legally binding without a contract."

Some observers have speculated over the past year that Frontier might be a good merger or acquisition candidate, although the carrier has indicated it will move forward on its own.

Still, the possibility of industry consolidation likely is weighing on workers.

Volpe said the AFA doesn't set a specific timeline for trying to organize a vote, noting that the pace will be determined by Frontier's flight attendants.

Denver-based Frontier says that it prefers to negotiate directly with its workers and that the company already has a good relationship with its flight attendants.


Previous attempts to unionize Frontier flight attendants

2006 Teamsters, 111 votes short

2005   AFA, 45 votes short

2002   AFA, 11 votes short

2000   AFA, 33 votes short

1998   AFA, 31 votes short

Source: Rocky Mountain News Archives