Flight attendants rally for better worker’s rights amid a multi-country ‘day of action’

Feb 14, 2024, 7:50 AM

flight attendants...

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Hundreds of flight attendants rallied for better pay and improved working conditions outside Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) Tuesday.

The rally was part of a “World Flight Attendance Day of Action” at 30 airports in major cities across multiple countries. Seattle was involved alongside other cities including San Francisco, Anchorage, Dallas, Atlanta and Washington D.C. Pickets also occurred in Canada, the U.K. and Guam.

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One Alaska Airlines flight attendant told KIRO 7 it’s normal to have an over 10-hour workday, but only get paid for five of those hours because of pay guidelines.

“We have flight attendants who are living way below the poverty level,” Alaska Airlines flight attendant, Erin Gailey, told KIRO 7. “We have attendants who are going without food right now.”

99% of Alaska Airlines flight attendants voted to authorize a strike. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), a union representing flight attendants in the U.S., stated approximately 100,000 flight attendants are currently in contract negotiations.

“Flight attendants are working harder than ever with long days, short nights, more time away from family, and in some of the most difficult working conditions of our history,” AFA wrote in a press release. “Some attendants haven’t had a raise in five years. Working conditions and pay have been eroded by consistent operational issues and cost of living significantly higher following the pandemic.”

The union cited the “life-saving work” flight attendants have to be prepared to do. Most recently, a panel blew off an Alaska Airlines plane last month on a flight from Portland, Oregon to  Ontario, California. Another flight, Japan Airlines Flight 516, also had a disaster in January after the airliner collided with a Japan Coast Guard aircraft in Tokyo. In both instances, all passengers survived.

“Flight attendants do life-saving work every day — from responding to medical emergencies to de-escalating conflict or fighting fires — but everyone recognizes just how important our work is when horrific accidents like Japan Airlines Flight 516 or Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 result in all lives on the plane saved,” AFA stated. “The flying public is behind our contract demands for fair pay for good reason.”

With 99% of Alaska Airlines flight attendants ready to strike, AFA has to request a 30-day cooling period from the National Mediation Board, meaning negotiations have deadlocked. If that 30-day cooling period is granted, the airline has 30 days to meet their demands.

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We agree with our flight attendants that we need a new contract, which is why we’ve been working hard to get an agreement,” Alaska Airlines wrote in a prepared statement, according to KIRO 7. “We’ve been offering industry-leading top-of-scale pay for months with an immediate 15% raise to the entire pay scale and additional raises every year. We’ve closed more than 50 tentative agreements – representing dozens of topics where we’ve found common ground.

“We remain optimistic in the negotiations process,” Alaska Airlines statement continued. “With six recently closed labor deals at the company and a tentative agreement reached in January for a new contract for our technicians, we’re hopeful to do the same for our flight attendants as soon as possible.”

Contributing: KIRO 7

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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