Management has recently discovered a new favorite phrase in recent weeks: “industry standard.” On its surface, this term is rather innocuous; at first glance you likely don’t see anything wrong with it. The problem is in how it is being used. This phrase is emblematic of a very sinister argument being made against our rights and privileges. Management uses it when it wants to argue in favor of reduced benefits for us, claiming that such cuts are prevalent at all airlines, that they are “standard” for the industry.
From our perspectives as Flight Attendants, this argument is absolute nonsense. A proponent of industry-standard benefits might suggest that we are not entitled to treatment above and beyond what our peers at other companies receive. The danger in this reasoning is that it robs us of our self-determination and agency. We have no control over what happens at other airlines, and yet management is arguing that our Contract should be beholden to what happens at other negotiating tables, rather than our own.
This argument is even more disconcerting when we examine the state of the airline industry today. It is entirely possible that in the coming months there will be a mere three major airlines: Delta, United, and a new American Airlines comprised of the old American merged with US Airways. Delta has no Union whatsoever, and as such, their management has absolute control over the terms of their employment. Should the merger go through, American will be switching over to a new post-bankruptcy contract.
Where on Earth is management looking to discern what constitutes the “industry standard?” The only major airline not in a state of transition and change at the moment is Delta. Surely they do not expect us to grant them the same power over our lives and careers as a labor force with no union representation.
A different phrase should be on our minds when considering our future Contract: “industry-leading.” We have no reason to create a Contract that is a mere barometer of the state of the airline industry. Instead of submissively allowing management to dictate our employment terms based on the least common denominator, we believe that we should proudly stand up and demand an industry-leading Contract, one that will set a shining example to other work groups and give them something to point to when demanding more rights and benefits from their own employers. Rather than settling for the industry standard, let’s work to raise that standard, for both ourselves and all Flight Attendants everywhere.