American Airlines flight attendants demanded an end to what they said is a company “beauty contest” that harks back to the era of an all-women workforce facing weigh-ins and wearing girdles.
The airline’s push to find the best-looking female and male attendants at each crew base as uniform models undermines their chief duty of ensuring safety, Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in an e-mail today to the union’s 18,000 members at American.
“This campaign just transported us back 50 years to the days of girdles, weight-checks and single, female-only stewardesses having to quit when they were married, pregnant or reached the ripe old age of 30,” Glading wrote. She urged members to boycott the “ridiculous, insulting beauty contest.”
AMR Corp.’s American began the “Face of Your Base” contest this week, asking attendants to vote on who looks the most “superb” in new scarves, ties and striped shirts for their uniforms. Winners will participate in a photo shoot to produce marketing materials for the pieces, according to an e-mail the airline sent to attendants.
The campaign was created by a team at the airline’s crew base in Chicago that includes attendants and managers, and the company wanted to include workers across the system, Missy Cousino, a spokeswoman for Fort Worth, Texas-based American, said in an e-mail.
“We understand that every campaign may not be of interest to every flight attendant, but encourage those who want to participate to do so,” she said. “We’ve had several flight attendants express how flattered they were to be nominated to be featured in our internal company materials.”
American and its attendants have been in talks on a new contract since June 2008, and the union has failed to win clearance from the National Mediation Board to move closer to a strike against the third-largest U.S. airline.