Alaska Airlines flight attendants will take a strike authorization vote next month, a move that their union said has been hastened due to anger over the Hawaiian Airlines merger agreement.
The parties’ collective bargaining agreement became amendable a year ago.
“The truth is Alaska management can afford an industry leading contract,” said Jeffrey Peterson, president of Alaska’s chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “Management’s unwillingness to present adequate proposals brought us to this strike vote announcement.”
- Related: The bittersweet side of the Alaska-Hawaiian deal
The vote will take place from Jan. 8 through Feb. 13.
Under the Railway Labor Act, which regulates strike actions in the airline industry, passage of the measure would not lead to an imminent strike. Several more steps would have to play out before Alaska flight attendants could actually walk off the job. Still, a strike authorization could raise the stakes for the mediated negotiations taking place between Alaska management and the AFA, which are taking place under the auspices of the National Mediation Board.
Alaska said that its merger deal with Hawaiian does not impact its ability or desire to reach an agreement with flight attendants. The airline also noted that it has recently completed labor agreements with five other work groups.
“We continue to plan for significant increases to our flight attendant contract,” the airline said.
Alaska said it has already offered an immediate 15% increase to its flight attendant wage scale. But AFA says it is pressing for top industry pay rates as well as other improvements, including pay during the boarding process and additional holiday and vacation time.
Thus far, the two sides have agreed on 38 of the 45 sections within their labor contract. And AFA acknowledges that by the standards of labor negotiations in the airline industry, its negotiations thus far with Alaska have not been ongoing for long.
For example, Southwest and the TWU Local 556 union have been negotiating a new contract for five years.
Still, with the announcement of a strike authorization vote, the Alaska AFA chapter has become the latest flight attendant group to ratchet up pressure on airline management. Along with Southwest, flight attendants’ labor agreements at United and American are also up for renegotiation.
Earlier this month, Southwest flight attendants voted down an agreement-in-principle that had been reached between management and TWU 556.
Last month, American Airlines flight attendants asked the National Mediation Board for permission to be released from mediation, a step that would have set the stage for a potential strike. But the board rejected the request and mediated negotiations between American management and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants union are continuing.
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