Strike authorization ballots were mailed Dec. 2 to 21,000 flight attendants at United Airlines, setting the stage for a potential nationwide “CHAOS” strike should United or any other contracted carrier abrogate its collective bargaining agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the 46,000-member-union announced. CHAOS (Create Havoc Around Our System), is the name given by the union to its program of intermittent work stoppages on flights, dates and locations of its choice, with no advance notice.

Both United and US Airways have asked federal bankruptcy courts for permission to walk away from their legally binding contracts with their employees, end their retirement plans and slash medical benefits for retirees.

Should they do so, AFA intends to implement CHAOS.

“From the start, United flight attendants have been fully engaged in helping their employer achieve a successful reorganization,” said Greg Davidowich, president of the AFA Master Executive Council at United. “With this vote, they are declaring under what terms and conditions they are willing, or unwilling, to work.”

According to a statement by the union, strike ballots are being prepared for AFA members at ATA and Hawaiian as well. In the event of a strike, secondary activity may take place at other carriers.