How Safe is the Cabin Air You’re Breathing?

TWU Launches Toxic Cabin Air Campaign

The TWU launched the first stages of its latest campaign, fighting for the safety of aviation workers and the flying public.

TWU is passing out these safety palm cards to JetBlue IFCs and flight attendants at other airlines.

The International created a committee consisting of members from the Air and Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Divisions, along with industry experts. As usual, the TWU is leading the charge with our Toxic Cabin Air campaign, calling on the FAA to monitor cabin air for toxic fumes.

The first component of the campaign is to educate TWU membership, which was underway as this issue went to press.

What Are ‘Toxic Fumes’?

In recent weeks, there have been several stories in the news about diverted aircraft from all airline carriers in the US and abroad because of “toxic fumes.” These fumes cause serious health concerns and are not monitored at all onboard aircraft.

For example, eight passengers on a flight this spring were hospitalized after a toxic fume incident while waiting to take off.

Passengers are often unaware that the air they breathe on board is circulated through a “bleed air system.” This system heats outside air over the engines – allowing toxic fumes to potentially seep into the cabin air.

TWU safety palm card – P.2

The aviation industry often denies the threat of these chemicals, claiming that aircraft have been designed this way for years. The science, however, is clear on this issue. Engine oil, hydraulic fuel, and other aircraft fluids, when gasified, become potent nerve agents that can cause brain damage, cancer, and loss of motor function.

These nerve agents can be absorbed through inhalation and through the skin. Repeated or prolonged exposure to these – such as the daily exposure flight attendants endure – may result in the same effects as acute exposure. Some TWU members have become completely disabled from exposure to these chemicals.

These fumes can smell like dirty socks or other everyday items – often causing people to ignore this life-threatening issue. Frequent flyers and other passengers may mistake the symptoms of toxic fume exposure for jetlag. In fact, travelers are at equal risk to the negative health effects from these fumes.

Federal legislation has recently been introduced in the U.S. Congress to address this issue. The Cabin Air Safety Act, sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), would help set our cabin air on a path to being healthy and safe. TWU fully endorses this important bill as a first step to ensuring our cabin air is healthy and safe.

What You Can Do

If you believe you’ve been exposed to toxic fumes, fill out the webform at the TWU Website.

On that page, you can also find resources on how to fill out a Workers’ Compensation claim, if you’ve been exposed to toxic fumes, depending on your state; download a palm card; and view your HIPAA rights.

Visit that same page for the latest campaign updates and how you can get involved.


Questions & Answers

What are the tentative agreements on articles?

These are temporary, or interim, agreements. Both sides have reached agreements on various articles, or subjects, in the negotiations ­– but these matters are not officially closed until after the entire package, the contract, is ratified with a vote by the members of the local being formed. Until the contract is ratified, these items can be changed.

What is ratification?

This is the vote by members on the entire contract. Members do not vote on individual articles as they are subject to change during the bargaining process. The contract is not binding between the union and management until ratified by a majority vote by the membership.

What is a final tentative contract?

A contract negotiated between the union and management that is not binding until ratified by a vote.

What happens after contract ratification?

Once JetBlue IFCs have ratified the contract and have the improvements and protections that come with it, IFCs will formally join the TWU as members. When a large majority of the IFCs have formally signed up as members, the TWU International Administrative Committee will charter the local with bylaws and a designation number.

The local will then have elections. All IFC members can run and vote for officers, including president, secretary-treasurer and executive board members.

Elected officers will receive training on establishing and running the local under the local’s bylaws and the TWU constitution.

How are decisions being made in this transition period before a contract is ratified and local leadership is elected?

All pre-contract actions are being guided by the TWU constitution. International Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen appointed Carmen Gonzalez-Gannon as TWU’s IFC Coordinator. Carmen is empowered to establish protocols and to appoint IFCs to committees.

The goal is to begin serving the membership as much as possible given the constraints of not yet having an enforceable contract. In making appointments, Carmen considers such things as: an IFCs’ demonstrated interest in union activities; recommendations from peers and union activists; communications skills; previous union experience; and completion of advocacy training.

How do I receive training and join a committee?

Contact the Interim Education and Training Committee via email to get placed on a developing master list of IFCs seeking to play more active roles. Even if you have expressed an interest previously, email the committee to ensure you are placed on the list. TWU is looking to schedule additional training opportunities at the bases. The Education and Training Committee’s email address is:

The Education and Training Committee is also seeking activists who may not be interested in serving on committees, but who may wish to be communication ambassadors to make sure colleagues are receiving correct information and steering IFC’s to official union sites and outlets.

What is the status of the 10-hour rest rule?

The 10-hour rest rule, which provides a guaranteed 10 hours of rest that cannot be reduced, was passed by Congress and signed into law as part of the FAA Reauthorization Bill in October 2018. The FAA has dragged its feet in implementing the rule and has not made a ruling on when carriers must be in compliance.

The TWU is using our resources with legislative and regulatory agencies in Washington, DC to make sure the law is implemented as soon as possible.

TWU / JetBlue IFC Committees Contact Information

IFCs serving on various committees met with TWU International staff on May 15 in New York City to discuss their activities and their plans moving forward. Nearly 20 IFCs and International staff took part in the meeting, which was chaired by IFC Coordinator Carmen Gonzalez-Gannon, at the Brooklyn headquarters of Transport Workers Union Local 100.

Union Activists Receive Training

Committees are in Motion

Your local within the Transport Workers Union is taking shape.

While contract negotiations continue, TWU’s JetBlue team has trained nearly 30 IFCs in a comprehensive grievance and advocacy program. Read more

Contract Talks Continue

TWU International President Samuelsen to Convene Town Hall

TWU negotiators are making progress on the first-ever contract between JetBlue and its IFCs – but the union doesn’t have an unlimited supply of patience, Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen said.

A three-day negotiating session with management took place in late April. Two more sessions are now scheduled: one in Washington, D.C., May 28–31, and another in San Francisco, June 17–20. Read more