In 1930 Ellen Church, who is pictured above, was a trained pilot and a nurse. That year she applied to pilot a commercial aircraft for Boeing Air Ways. Church was refused because of her sex. Determined to fly, she persuaded Boeing to hire her as a “sky girl”, the first designation for female flight attendants. Church had convinced the skeptical male executives that using nurses on board would convince the disbelieving public that flying was safe.
Her first flight lifted off on May 15, 1930. That Boeing 80A aircraft was not pressurized. It carried fourteen passengers. Church made thirteen stops as she worked from the Oakland/San Francisco airport to Chicago. She was on duty for twenty hours! In addition to attending to the passengers, the women “sky girls” were expected to, when necessary, help with hauling luggage, fueling and assisting pilots to push the aircraft into hangars.
Little has changed since Ellen Church’s time spent as a “sky girl”! Exploitation of workers is considered “good business practice” or “smart strategy”.
1969, the beginning of the “jet age”, was the year I started flying for TWA. I learned quickly that my employer was exploiting us as workers, and exploiting us as women doing what is now known as”emotional labor”. At the same time the airline companies were trying to convince us how lucky we were to work for them. I became a union activist until I left in 1985.
Here is a statement from another woman, Domenica, who outlines exactly how the current airline companies have managed to steal pay from their employees. You will learn how just compensation for required labor is denied thousands of flight attendants every hour of the day. Please consider signing her petition.
“Being a flight attendant is a hard job, and has only gotten harder since the pandemic. Domenica, a former US flight attendant, is fighting to ensure that the folks who keep us safe while traveling are paid what they’re due. Join the 180,000+ travelers standing with her.
A new video of unruly passengers being kicked off of an airplane seems to go viral weekly. Passenger incidents increased 47% from 2021 to 2022. But while our flight attendants are dealing with difficult passengers so our planes can take off, most of them aren’t being paid. Nearly all major airlines do not pay flight attendants during the boarding process. The clock doesn’t start on their compensation until the pilot pulls the brakes.
Flight attendants schedules were originally built off of railroad schedules. Currently there are no airlines in North America that compensate flight attendants for boarding. We only get clocked for our flight times. When the pilots pull the breaks. Not when we have customers on board or delays or mechanicals. Even though we are required by the FAA to complete specific job related safety procedures and interact with customers.
Since this is “free” time for the airlines, they are able to manipulate us as much as they would like. This makes us work longer hours, keeps us away from our homes longer, and puts significantly more stress on our bodies, and physical and mental health.
I want to leave aviation better than I found it. I know how much money our companies steal from us, and I know how much we deserve it.
It is incredibly challenging to be a flight attendant. I hear it all of the time “I couldn’t do what you do.” We are professionals. Customer service experts. Energy experts. Time experts. We work really hard to keep planes moving on time and customers happy. Just like everyone else at these airlines.
We deserve to be compensated for the times when we are working. Our hourly rate looks amazing, but at the end of the day we are working under minimum wage for at least the first 5 years of our career. Adding on terrible rest rules, overwhelm from corporate emails, and unpaid time for paperwork, annual and quarterly training or being on airport standby.
In a perfect world we should be paid as soon as you step foot in the airport until your trip ended, but I will settle for pushing the needle to getting paid for boarding.
I would like to note that pilots are also not compensated for this time.
Thank you for your consideration, support and sharing this incredibly important matter.”
Paula asks that you follow this link and sign Domenica’s petition.