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American Flight Attendants Won’t Accept Arbitration

American Airlines’ flight attendants union told its members it will reject any offer of arbitration in contract talks with the carrier, an action that may move the group closer to a strike.

The latest round of talks between the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and AMR Corp.’s American, the second-biggest U.S. carrier, ended May 21 without an agreement.

The union, which represents 16,550 active-duty workers, said it expects the National Mediation Board to review this week its request to declare talks deadlocked. If the board agrees, it would offer binding arbitration to both sides, and a rejection by either could trigger a 30-day cooling-off period before a strike. The board also may order additional talks.

“The APFA’s opinion is that we are at an impasse,” the union said today on its website. “We have no intention of accepting the proffer of binding arbitration.”

Under binding arbitration, both sides must agree in advance to accept a third party’s ruling on how to settle major issues that have not been resolved in negotiations. American and the union have been in talks since June 2008.

“American continues to believe a negotiated settlement is the best outcome for everyone,” Missy Latham, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, said in an e-mail. “We’re steadfastly committed to getting a deal at the table. If the NMB proffered binding arbitration to the parties, American would agree to participate.”

Flight attendants authorized union leaders on May 19 to call a strike if they are released by mediators from further negotiations. A walkout can’t occur until the union and American complete steps required under a federal law governing airline labor talks.

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