The Signorile Report
The Signorile Report
Sara Nelson's nonstop fight for workers rights

Sara Nelson's nonstop fight for workers rights

The president of the Association of Flight Attendants is a progressive, dynamic voice for organized labor

Source: AFGE, Licensed under Wiki Commons

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I didn’t want the week of Labor Day to end without posting my full interview with the amazing dynamo that is Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA AFL-CIO. Nelson has been a nonstop force for workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. And she’s created a lot of excitement among progressives — some even calling on her to run for office — as she injects a progressive energy for the labor movement and brings the voice of a woman to union leadership.

Speaking with me as part of our Labor Day special on my SiriusXM show, she outlined how she makes sure workers aren’t exploited, are paid fairly, and are treated with dignity and respect. Representing workers on the front lines who’ve been putting their lives at risk, Nelson made sure both the government and the industry protected workers in every way possible.

“Many people, when those hours were cut back, they took a 25 to 50 percent cut in pay because those hours no longer exist,” she told me about the early months of the pandemic. “Demand for air travel fell off overnight, like 97%, so we were immediately looking at the collapse of the entire industry. But flight attendants started to feel the brunt of this, as we were first learning about coronavirus, and still working on the planes and being on the front lines from the beginning.”

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Nelson said she knew from looking back at the airline industry directly after the 9/11, when the industry suffered a devastating blow, “that if we didn’t set the demands right away, and make sure that relief [in government rescue programs] was defined as relief for the workers, that this would be another crisis that would be put on our backs.”

Nelson worked with government leaders closely, as well as industry executives. American Airlines CFO Derek Kerr recently said he was “most proud of saving jobs” and thanked the unions, including Nelson’s.

Nelson and I discussed that and so much more, from how flight attendants are dealing with mask-defying unruly passengers to the future of union organizing and the labor movement in America.

Listen in.