Alaska Airlines flight attendants demonstrate for new contract

More than 150 Alaska Airlines flight attendants demonstrated outside the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Aug. 15, part of a broader protest nationally as the airline’s attendants demand what they’re calling their first meaningful pay raise in nearly a decade.

“Record profits, corporate greed, Alaska pay us what we need,” they shouted. They hoisted yellow signs with messages such as “pay us or chaos.”

First-year flight attendants at the airline make an average base pay of less than $24,000 annually, said LeiLauni Scheideman, president of the Anchorage local of the Alaska Association of Flight Attendants. They also receive other pay benefits such as per diems, she said.

The overall pay is often low enough to qualify them for food stamps, she said.

Over the past year, the airline’s flight attendants have been trying to negotiate a new contract for the first time since 2014, Scheideman said.

“We’re picketing to put pressure on management to finalize these negotiations,” she said, as protesters marched in a giant oval pattern outside the doors of the departure lobby.

The airline said that in June it made an offer that included “industry-leading top of scale wages,” according to an email from Tim Thompson, a spokesperson with Alaska Airlines. “But unfortunately, AFA’s counter proposal included cost increases throughout the agreement that just weren’t economically feasible, and we were unable to reach an agreement.”

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

Scheideman said the flight attendants’ union wants an increase of more than 40% to wages and benefits, but management has offered 9%. The current pay for flight attendants at Alaska Airlines ranks below several other airlines, she said, though service at the airline is ranked at the top. She said the union also wants other rules to change, such as larger stipends to cover the cost of their uniforms, and compensation for time spent waiting before flights.

Flight attendants for the airline also demonstrated on Aug. 15 in other U.S. cities where Alaska Airlines has bases. More than 1,000 were reported to have turned out, Scheideman said.

The airline was looking forward to resuming negotiations last week, and has meetings scheduled with the union through November, the company email said.

“We remain committed to reaching an agreement on a new competitive contract that fairly compensates flight attendants and continues to provide significant flexibility, but also maintains an emphasis on productivity that is critical to the sustainability of the company’s business model,” the airline’s email said.

 

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