Sara Nelson to Deliver Gruber Lecture on Oct. 17

Sara Nelson looks ahead while standing in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Sara Nelson is the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.

Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, will deliver the 2022 Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Women’s Rights.

Her talk, titled “Women and Unions: Solidarity is a Force Stronger than Gravity,” will take place in conversation with Professor of Law Amy Kapczynski ’03 on Oct. 17 at 4:30 p.m. in Sterling Law Building, Room 129. 

The following day, Nelson will join a panel discussion co-hosted by the Law and Political Economy Project at Yale from 12:10 to 1:30 p.m. in Sterling Law Building Room 127 on the future of worker power in the United States. The panel will be moderated by University of Chicago historian Gabriel Winant with panelists Eric Blanc, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at Rutgers University; Charles Du, Associate General Counsel at the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ; and Lorena Lopez, Organizing Director at UNITE HERE Local 11, the hotel and restaurant union which currently represents over 30,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona.

Both events are open to the Yale community. Registration is required for each. To register, email

Currently serving her second four-year term as the AFA’s International President, Nelson represents 50,000 union members across 17 airlines. A flight attendant and union member since 1996, Nelson has been at the forefront of legislative advocacy to achieve fair compensation, job security, and improved quality of life for flight attendants. 

As the AFA’s chief spokesperson and administrator, Nelson advances the objectives and policies set by the union’s Board of Directors, which comprises locally elected flight attendants. Nelson oversees the AFA’s professional staff in a variety of departments. Though leading the AFA is a full-time position, Nelson has remained a qualified flight attendant since becoming International President in 2014.

During her first term, Nelson secured eighteen legislative victories in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, including a two-hour increase in minimum legal rest for flight attendants. Nelson also played a pivotal role in ensuring $54 billion in COVID-19 relief to support flight attendants. Among other roles, Nelson is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the Communication Workers of America Executive Board, and the Transportation Trades Department Executive Board. In 2020, Nelson served on the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, where she co-chaired the Economy Task Force with Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA).

Nelson’s work has been featured in a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, The Financial Times, and The Washington Post. In 2019, she was recognized by The New York Times as “America’s most powerful flight attendant.”

The Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Global Justice and the Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Women’s Rights feature speakers whose exceptional achievements have served the causes of global justice and women’s rights. The lecture is a core component of the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights, a Yale University program administered by Yale Law School.