A Special Message on Workers’ Memorial Day

A Special Message on Workers’ Memorial Day

April 28, 2017

Dear AFA-CWA Members:

Today, pause to recognize Workers’ Memorial Day.

In 1970, the AFL-CIO declared April 28th as Workers’ Memorial Day, remembering those who have died on the job and redoubling our efforts to maintain and promote safety at work. The great union organizer and activist Mother Jones gave us the rallying slogan for the day, “Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” This is our charge and we take it seriously in everything we do to improve our contracts, organize the unorganized, and demand the safest regulations and standards for our jobs.

Workers Memorial Day is particularly poignant to AFA members because on this date 28 years ago we lost our colleague C.B. Lansing, an Aloha Airlines Flight Attendant. You may remember the extraordinary photos of her aircraft, Aloha Flight 243, with the entire upper half of the front of the cabin ripped away in an explosive decompression triggered when small cracks in the hull gave way under pressurization at cruising altitude.

Ms. Lansing was working in the aisle of the aircraft and was immediately blown overboard when the cabin ripped open. A second Flight Attendant was knocked off her feet and lay unconscious in the aisle. The third Flight Attendant that day, Michelle Honda, made everyone who shares this profession proud. From her position in the back of the aircraft, she crawled forward literally pulling herself up the aisle by the supports under each seat. Despite her own injuries, she checked on passengers, made sure they were strapped in and comforted the injured, while making sure every passenger donned a life vest. She worked her way to the front of the aircraft, tending to those most at risk in the area that was now open to the sky.

Michelle ‘fought like hell for the living.’ When the plane touched down on Maui over 10 minutes later, she led a successful evacuation effort. Her heroic efforts were credited with ensuring that no passengers lost their lives that day. Michelle reacted to the praise with humility, declining the label of “hero” and saying she was just doing her job, the job of a first responder, the job of a professional Flight Attendant.

It is events such as these that remind us we have more in common than we have that may divide us. It was union members who made the airplanes fly again on September 11th, it was union members who rebuilt our cities and it is union members who understand the power of solidarity. We will never forget our heroes and we will always seek to honor their sacrifices with our actions—not only through our work for safer skies, but in our contributions to our communities at home and to those we visit around the world.

Our Union works everyday to bring recognition to the work we do. It is important for the world to look at Flight Attendants and see the hero who revived someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, sister or brother from a heart attack.

…to see the crew of three Flight Attendants delivering a baby in flight even through complications during the birth and without a single passenger being aware that at the same time these heroes were expertly handling a potential security threat.

…to see the Flight Attendant who was responsible for saving the lives of an entire airplane as she revived both pilots from unconsciousness following a decompression.

…to see the Flight Attendant who, despite sustaining injuries during a crash landing returned repeatedly to the burning aircraft to pull people to safety.

…to see the Flight Attendant who worked with his crew to contain a bomb and stop a terrorist act.

In the wake of recent incidents video taped and streamed across social media and mainstream media we must remember why we do our work. To quote a recent letter from the AFA United MEC Officers, "continue to lean on each other to maintain the best of who we are. We can’t be second guessing ourselves when we need to protect the safety of the flight. Make every effort not to react to attempts to provoke us and stay focused on our mission as aviation’s first responders." Our union is working hard to support Flight Attendants on the frontline and to reinforce for the public the critical role we play in keeping passengers safe. We are identifying for regulators, lawmakers and airline management the support we need to do our jobs. Please watch for additional information on this as we press forward in the coming weeks.

There are thousands of examples of heroic acts performed by Flight Attendants and millions of examples where, every day, a Flight Attendant is seen as someone’s hero. Workers’ Memorial Day is significant for all workers and the heroes we will never forget. Today we honor those who have lost their lives, and in doing so we honor those who fight like hell for the living and save lives every day.

In Solidarity,

Sara Nelson
AFA International President

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