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FLIGHT ATTENDANT HERITAGE: 46-YEAR STRUGGLE MIRRORS THAT OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES

 FLIGHT ATTENDANT HERITAGE:
 46-YEAR STRUGGLE MIRRORS THAT OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES
 WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- As Labor Day nears, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), AFL-CIO, looks through its 46- year history to a time when "the girl next door" served hungry passengers, calmed the nervous and cared for the airsick, and to the present where safety professionals fly the nations skies managing a variety of modern-day problems. AFA and its members, with the help of civil rights laws and the women's movement, revolutionized the flight attendant profession and continue to challenge the status quo with a potent agenda.
 "Skygirls" entered the airline work force in 1930 when Ellen Church, the first female flight attendant, approached Boeing Air Transport (later named United Airlines) with the idea of nurses accompanying passengers on flights. In her book, "From Sky Girl to Flight Attendant: Women and the making of a Union," Georgia Panter Nielsen writes, because of many passengers' fear of flying, "airline officials needed promotion of in-flight service that would project an image of stability, safety and comfort to the traveling public. It would be difficult for potential passengers to admit fears when young women routinely took to the air as part of the in-flight crew. Sex and age-based discrimination commenced."
 In Panter's book, Alice Cook states: "Only good-looking, slender, unmarried, non-pregnant women could be employed or remain employed by the airlines. The image was precisely of the girl next door -- neat, nice and good enough for your son to marry." These strict grooming standards regulated make-up, hairstyles and weight. The weight restrictions forced on the original "skygirls" were adhered to as late as 1964, when AFA National President Dee Maki first started flying. "When I was hired, I weighed 113 pounds, and I could not weigh more than 5 pounds over that. So, I weighed in at 119 and was pulled off the line." As a new-hire, Maki also had to sign a release saying that she would leave the airline at age 32. "Needless to say, there was a high rate of turnover at the airlines," Maki adds.
 During the '60s and early '70s, "stewardesses" became the chief resource for attracting the much sought-after male business traveler. Campaigns like "Fly me, I'm Cheryl" and "We really move our tails for you" made "stewardesses" the victims of sexual exploitation. Along with these ad campaigns came suggestive uniforms. Maki remembers the many costumes she was required to wear as "disgusting." "During champagne flights we had to wear a frilly little apron and headband," Maki regretfully reminisces. "There were pizza outfits, pajama outfits and even gaslight outfits."
 With the passage of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, "stewardesses" and their union worked to abolish the airlines' discriminatory hiring practices, the no-marriage rule and the age 32 mandatory retirement. During the 1960s through the 1970s, they won the right to maintain their jobs while pregnant and negotiated the right to be called "flight attendants" instead of "stewardesses," which was not just a name change, but an image change as well. "Before these reforms, our image was centered around service more than safety," Maki says. "But today we're dispelling that myth when we fight for health and safety improvements important to flight attendants and passengers."
 Although the profession changed in many ways, flight attendants continue to be discriminated against when it comes to regulating the number of hours attendants are on duty and weight restrictions. Every other airline group, including pilots and baggage handlers, have duty time limits, but flight attendants have been left out of the fold. In the past month, however, legislation has past both the House and Senate to limit duty time and provide for rest after maximum duty periods.
 In the ever-evolving airline industry, flight attendants must now face the inevitable growth of U.S. airlines internationally. More carriers are setting up foreign domiciles and hiring people in other countries as flight attendants on U.S.-owned airlines. Jobs are being lost to a host of internationals on the premise of their language abilities, without regard to U.S. flight attendants' seniority or contracts between the airline and the union.
 As the airline industry continues to change, AFA's importance becomes apparent. The union is needed to sift through the barrage of problems associated with the increasing number of bankrupt airlines furloughing workers, opening domiciles and closing domiciles, expanding routes and contracting routes, along with many other work-related health and safety problems.
 "The best barometer for measuring AFA's success is to see the change in our membership," says Maki. "Today's typical flight attendant is a 35-year-old woman who has a family, is college-educated and earns a starting salary at a major airline of about $1,200 a month. Compare that to the 'skygirl' who seldom made it through the initial six month period because of the stressful restrictions involved."
 The Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, represents more than 33,000 flight attendants on 20 carriers and is the largest flight attendant union in the world.
 -0- 8/18/92
 /CONTACT: David Melancon of the Association of Flight Attendants, 202-328-5400/ CO: Association of Flight Attendants ST: District of Columbia IN: AIR SU:


LD -- NYLFNS4 -- 0751 08/18/92 06:49 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 18, 1992
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