MTA Friend of Labor Award
International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO
Sara Nelson has served as the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, since 2014, and she is currently serving her second four- year term. She first became a union member in 1996 when she was hired as a flight attendant at United Airlines, and today she represents 50,000 of aviation’s first responders at 20 airlines. The New York Times called Nelson "America's most powerful flight attendant" for her role in helping to end the 35-day government shutdown and InStyle Magazine placed her on its 2019 Top 50 Badass Women list.
Nelson led AFA’s efforts to achieve 18 legislative victories in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, including achieving a two-hour increase in minimum legal rest for flight attendants and other efforts to combat fatigue on the job. Before that, she led the 90-day campaign to reverse national security policy to keep knives and other weapons off planes. She also crafted the campaign for "100,000 Eyes in the Skies," which successfully resulted in mandatory training for flight attendants to recognize and report human trafficking.
Nelson has served as a leading voice on issues facing women in the workplace and across the country, encouraging women everywhere to "join unions, run unions." In addition to The New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning, The Nation, The New Republic, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Salon, and PBS Newshour have featured her work.
Nelson is passionate about AFA's continued mission to achieve fair compensation, job security and improved quality of life for aviation's first responders, as well as a safe, healthy and secure aircraft cabin for passengers and crew alike. She believes flight attendants can play a pivotal role in strengthening the labor movement with more public contact than almost any other job, and access to every corner of the Earth.
Nelson grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, and earned a bachelor's degree from Principia College, with majors in English and education.