Alaska Airlines reaches preliminary collective agreement with flight attendants

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An Alaska Airlines plane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport. The airline has reached a preliminary agreement with the flight attendants' union, both sides announced late Friday.

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Alaska Airlines and the 7,000-member flight attendants union agreed to a tentative collective bargaining agreement late Friday, concluding talks that had lasted more than a year and a half.

The terms of the deal have not yet been announced, but the union spoke of a “record contract”.

The agreement is likely to include a significant pay rise, a demand widely held in the aviation industry and also sought by unions, some of whose members have not received a pay rise for years.

In April, the union told its members that it was seeking salary increases of between 43 and 56 percent by 2026, depending on length of service. These salary increases would also include back pay for the one-and-a-half years during which employees worked under the terms of the previous collective agreement.

“Your actions over the past two years of negotiations … have given us the power to squeeze every last dollar from Alaska Airlines management,” the union said in a statement to its members on Friday.

Alaska Airlines expressed its satisfaction with the agreement reached and thanked the union negotiators.

“Through our collective efforts, we have been able to reach an agreement that provides quality of life and continued career opportunities at Alaska,” the airline said in a statement. The agreement still needs to be approved by union leadership and rank-and-file members to take effect.

In February, union members voted 99.5% in favor of a strike. However, under the Railway Labor Act, the labor law for airlines, union members could not strike even though their contract expired in December 2022. Instead, union members continued to work under the conditions and wages set out in that contract. There are no such restrictions on strikes. for most private sector workers.

In February, Alaska flight attendants – along with unions such as American, United and Southwest – conducted coordinated strikes on an unprecedented scale, demanding new contracts.

Since then, Southwest flight attendants have reached an agreement that includes an immediate 22.3 percent pay raise effective May 1, as well as $364 million in back pay.

Meanwhile, flight attendants at American and United are still seeking new agreements. Flight attendants at American have asked to be released from restrictions so they can strike. But even if granted, they would have to go through months-long cooling-off periods under the Railroad Labor Act before they could strike.

Steve Maller, a flight attendant for nearly 20 years, was one of those on strike in February. Maller was one of the flight attendants on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which attracted international attention on January 5 when a door stopper blew off, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.

Maller told CNN in February that he and the other flight crew members were praised by Alaska Airlines management for their conduct on the plane, which without serious injuries. However, he said he went on strike because the existing contract did not provide a living wage for too many flight attendants.

Maller said he worked as a bartender at one point and most flight attendants he knows also have a second job.

“You have to have something to earn a living and make ends meet,” he said.

Maller also expressed concern that the airline was losing too many experienced flight attendants who had received little or no pay increases for years.

“Five years ago, it was unthinkable that flight attendants would quit their jobs,” he said. “Today, 20, 25, 30 quit every month.”

Anna Harden

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