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American Airlines' new uniforms cause hives and headaches for some workers

American Airlines' new uniforms cause hives and headaches for some workers
American Airlines says that only 14 employees have reported problems with new uniforms, which rolled out in September. The union representing the flight attendants for American Airlines, however, says 600 have complained. (American Airlines)

For the first time in about 30 years, American Airlines 80,000 employees are sporting new uniforms. But flight attendants are complaining that the material in the clothes, which were rolled out Sept. 14, is giving them hives, rashes and headaches.

American Airlines and the union that represents the carrier's flight attendants disagree on how many flight attendants have reported a problem. The airline says that only a handful of flight attendants with allergies to wool have complained.

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"We actively communicate with our employees and we've had 14 employees among our employees complain about the uniforms," said Fernand Fernandez, American Airlines vice president for global marketing.

The Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants said at least 600 employees have complained.

"APFA is deeply distressed by this situation and is dedicating resources to get to the bottom of this," said Rob Ross, president of the group, which represents 26,000 flight attendants at American Airlines. He said the fibers used in the uniforms are "potentially toxic."

The union said it has advised flight attendants with bad reactions to the material to wear their old uniforms, which were made primarily from synthetics, such as polyester.

Ross also said the union has sent pieces of the new uniform to be tested.

This is not the first time the new uniforms have sparked complaints.

Last year, when employees were testing the new outfits, pilots for American Airlines said the uniforms were uncomfortable and fit badly. In addition to the bad fit, some pilots said, the pants pockets weren't deep enough, according to the Allied Pilots Assn., the union for American's 15,000 pilots.

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