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Alaska Air flight attendants again picket at Anchorage airport as union plans strike vote

By Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News
Published: December 20, 2023, 7:43am

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Several dozen Alaska Airlines flight attendants marched in protest along a snowy sidewalk outside the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Tuesday, threatening to authorize unannounced strikes that, if approved early next year, could shut flights down across the company.

“It will cause chaos,” said Thresia Raynor, mobilization chair with the Anchorage local Alaska Association of Flight Attendants.

Behind her, flight attendants marched outside the doors of the departure lobby. They hoisted yellow signs with slogans like “Alaska quit stalling, our pay is appalling.”

They shouted: “They make millions, we make dimes! Alaska, pay us for our time!”

The picketing was part of a broader protest nationally as the airline’s flight attendants demand what they’re calling their first meaningful pay raise in nearly a decade. It comes after a year of failed negotiations. Similar protests were held nationally and in Anchorage in August.

A little over two weeks ago, Alaska Airlines announced a $1.9 billion plan to acquire Hawaiian Airlines, six years after the company acquired Virgin America for $2.6 billion.

Alaska Airlines said in a statement Tuesday that it was continuing to negotiate a competitive flight attendant contract. It said the plan to acquire Hawaiian, which needs regulatory approval, does not impact the company’s desire to reach an agreement.

“We respect their protected right to engage in these activities and do not expect any disruption to our operation or service as a result,” the airline said of the picketers on Tuesday. “Any employee participating in these activities is not scheduled to work and they are not on strike.”

The company has meetings in January and February scheduled with the Association of Flight Attendants to continue negotiations and reach agreement on the outstanding topics, the statement said.

“In October this year, we provided an updated comprehensive economic offer — the largest we’ve made in our history for our flight attendants’ contract — that would put our flight attendants at or near the top of the industry in most areas, including pay,” the airline said. “The proposal included an immediate 15% increase to the wage scale, market rate adjustments to keep them in line with new contracts at other airlines, and no changes to duty day.”

The company last year agreed to give pilots up to a 23% pay raise.

A new contract, if one is negotiated, will be the first since 2014 for Alaska Airlines flight attendants, they said.

Raynor said first-year flight attendants at the airline make an average base pay of about $24,000 annually, along with per diem, often low enough to qualify for food stamps and other forms of public assistance.

“Many of them have eviction notices on their front door or bills they can’t pay or they have to choose between whether they’re going to eat or put gas in the car to come to work,” she said.

From Jan. 8 to Feb. 13, flight attendants will vote on whether to authorize a strike, according to a statement from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

It will be the first strike-authorization vote by flight attendants at the airline since 1993, the union said.

Ballots will be sent to 6,800 flight attendants, the union said.

“Alaska flight attendants have engaged in over a year of contract negotiations with negotiations stalling over management’s inadequate economic proposals,” the union statement said. “Just months after stating that flight attendant proposals were not ‘economically feasible,’ Alaska management announced plans to purchase Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion. The hypocrisy angered flight attendants who are (Alaska Air’s) largest workgroup and the face of the airline.”

A strike could affect the entire system or a single flight, the union said. The union decides the terms, time and location of the strike without notice to management or passengers, the union said.

Before a strike occurs, the National Mediation Board must declare that negotiations are deadlocked, placing both parties in a 30-day “cooling off” period leading to a strike deadline, the union said.

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