Alaska Airlines flight attendants protest at Anchorage airport as strike vote looms

Flight attendants march in a picket line in front of Ted Stevens International Airport
Flight attendants in Anchorage protested outside Ted Stevens International Airport Tuesday, demanding higher wages from Alaska Airlines. (Matt Faubion / Alaska Public Media)

Flight attendants in Anchorage marched Tuesday to demand higher wages from Alaska Airlines. The protest was one of several happening around the country on the same day, in an organized effort to pressure the airline.

Dozens of flight attendants, and a few pilots, turned out carrying signs and chanting slogans as they marched in the snow outside Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. 

The protestors shouted refrains like, “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now! And if we don’t get it? Shut it down!”

Thresia Raynor is an Alaska flight attendant who leads local union mobilization efforts, and was frustrated that the 14-month-long contact negotiation hasn’t been more fruitful. Raynor said the starting salary for a full-time flight attendant is about $24,000 a year, and many of her colleagues are homeless or struggling with food insecurity. 

“Many of our flight attendants are living in poverty, have eviction notices on their front door,” she said. “They’re real everyday humans in Anchorage and all over the state of Alaska and all over the Pacific Northwest that are unable to live on their wages with just one job.”

Raynor said those wages increase with seniority, but said even some veteran workers with more than a decade of experience qualify for subsidized healthcare or food assistance. 

Flight attendants hold signs in a picket line outdoors, with an airport control tower in the background
Flight attendants in Anchorage promised “chaos” if they don’t receive higher pay. (Matt Faubion / Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Airlines flight attendants said Tuesday that they will vote to authorize a strike. That would require approval from national mediators, so Raynor said the process may take months, but that they will be ready if and when that day comes.

Tuesday’s protest comes just weeks after Alaska Airlines announced plans to purchase Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion. Raynor said that may actually help speed things up, because a merger can’t go through until all contracts are in place.

“But at the same time, it’s a little salt in the wound when the company says it’s not economically viable to pay us a living wage, but they can scrape together two billion in cash to pay for an air carrier,” Raynor said.

Alaska Airlines referred inquiries to a web post, which said the company respects employees’ right to demonstrate and that they recently provided a proposal that included 15% pay raises.

Raynor disagreed with the airline’s messaging, saying flight attendants are committed to voting for a strike and creating “chaos” until they receive a livable wage.

Michael Fanelli reported on economics and hosted the statewide morning news at Alaska Public Media. 

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