US Airways flight attendants call for a contract with picket line at PHX

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Hundreds of chanting flight attendants outside Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Wednesday made their warning clear - 'Pay us or chaos.'

"It sends a message to the National Mediation Board, give us more dates to negotiate. We'd rather negotiate," said Debora Volpe, who speaks on behalf of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Those protesting outside Sky Harbor are former America West flight attendants. Since its merger with US Airways in 2005, they've argued that they're getting paid much less than their flight attendant counterparts out east.

There have been several tentative agreements. US Airways says the last was in late September, when the attendants rejected a contract that offered a pay increase that varied between 13 and 45 percent.

"What didn't they tell you?" asked Volpe. "They didn't tell you that with this merger they never brought the America West flight attendants to the same wage scale. So a lot of our flight attendants are about 42 percent behind."

With negotiations stalled, the attendants are voting this week on whether or not they want to prepare to strike should they continue without a contract. Those results should come next week.

In reaction, a spokesman for US Airways said, "Today's informational picketing will not create any delays or cancellations at PHX. It's also important to note that even if US Airways flight attendants vote to authorize a strike, by no means is a strike close to happening."

By drawing attention now, these flight attendants hope to avoid any strikes later.

Should preparations for a strike move forward, the Association of Flight Attendants and US Airways say that would not happen anytime during Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it could cause problems during spring break and Spring Training here in Arizona.

Again, that's only if negotiations don't continue.