updated 11/16/2004 2:46:06 PM ET 2004-11-16T19:46:06

The board of the nation’s largest flight attendants union unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a strike on Tuesday after its president accused the industry of using the bankruptcy process to cut workers’ pay and other benefits.

“Almost everywhere we look, flight attendants are being forced to work longer hours with reduced rest time, and all for ever-decreasing wages. This must stop,” Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said at the opening of a meeting of the union’s board of directors.

Friend said the union would immediately poll members at four airlines on whether to strike and tally the vote by the end of December. The union has 46,000 members employed by 26 airlines, but the four immediately at issue are United, US Airways, ATA Holdings Corp. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc.

Friend noted the efforts at airlines like UAL Corp.’s United and US Airways Group Inc. to use the bankruptcy process to cancel union contracts and impose deep pay cuts as well as to terminate pension plans and eliminate health coverage for retirees.

Friend said that seven carriers with AFA representation are in bankruptcy, with others on the brink.

“Our entire industry is in turmoil and the careers of our flight attendants all hang in the balance,” Friend said.

Bankrupt US Airways, for instance, asked a judge on Friday to cancel the collective bargaining agreement for the flight attendants and several other unions. The airline then wants to impose a 15 percent pay cut on the flight attendants, with no pay raise until 2008, and eliminate the flight attendants’ pension plan.

The airline says it needs the pay cuts to avoid liquidation and transform itself into a low-fare carrier like JetBlue Airways Corp.

The judge presiding over US Airways’ bankruptcy has already imposed temporary pay cuts of 21 percent on the flight attendants and some other union workers, comparing the airline’s situation to “a ticking fiscal time bomb.”

United is seeking another round of pay and benefit cuts from its union workers, including $140 million in annual concessions from the flight attendants on top of $314 million it has already secured, the union said.

The president of the United States' largest flight attendants union urged authorization of a nationwide strike and criticized the airline industry for using the bankruptcy process to obliterate collective bargaining rights.

Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 46,000 members, said Tuesday that efforts at airlines like UAL Corp.'s United and US Airways Group Inc. to use the bankruptcy process to cancel union contracts and impose deep pay cuts are threatening flight attendants' careers across the nation.

She also noted that the bankruptcy process is being used to terminate pension plans and eliminate health coverage for retirees.

"Our entire industry is in turmoil and the careers of our flight attendants all hang in the balance," Friend said at the opening of a union board of directors conference in Pittsburgh. "Almost everywhere we look, flight attendants are being forced to work longer hours with reduced rest time, and all for ever-decreasing wages. This must stop."

The board of directors is expected to act on a resolution authorizing a strike later Tuesday.

Friend said that seven carriers with AFA representation are in bankruptcy, with others on the brink.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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