Updated: 34 minutes ago Published: 58 minutes ago
As I slip on my uniform before work, I feel nothing but pride. My dress is adorned with a set of shiny gold wings and a few diamonds that I earned through countless 3 a.m. reserve call-outs, and hundreds of 4 a.m. hotel vans (sometimes on 30-below-degree Fairbanks layovers). Nothing but pride bubbles up. Fifteen years of customer service and dedication to our profession of safety. I am not only in love with the airline I work for, but also so very proud to show off the beautiful place I have lived in all my life with first-time visitors to our great state of Alaska.
Most of those years, I struggled to make a living, often not knowing where my next good meal would be or how I would make ends meet. I was told it would get better. I was told to “just hang on” and gut it out, and that eventually I would make a living wage if I was patient enough. In 2012, I passionately volunteered as mobilization chair for the Anchorage Council of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). During an eight-year struggle, we advocated for a contract that would give new flight attendants enough wages to no longer qualify for food stamps. Enough money to live in an apartment, not a car.
Over those same years, my much-loved company was experiencing unprecedented profits and giving shareholders record stock dividends, all while planning an aggressive stock buy-back agenda. Along with other volunteers, we painted and assembled picket signs in my living room. We reached out to other local unions to come out and stand with AFA on the informational picket lines at the shareholders’ meeting at our Heritage Museum. We were asking for a wage increase for the bottom of the pay scale. AFA just wanted to bring the bottom up, create work rules that allowed for proper rest for flight attendants and secure health insurance that’s affordable, even for a new hire. Flight attendants at the top of the seniority list did not get a raise but some improvement in work rules.
We were successful, after an exceedingly long fight, in increasing the wages of a new hire by 100%. That might sound like a lot, but understand they were previously making about $3 per hour on the average 10-hour duty day. Even with the wage increase, it was still $8 per hour — below the minimum wage in all the states where we have flight attendant bases. Shameful, but it was all the company would do. While not proud of the new contract, at least the new hires were making more than $3 per hour. Now, the group of flight attendants at the top of the pay scale still has not had a raise in nearly 20 years.
On Aug. 15, thousands of flight attendants across the country stood together in unity (this was not yet a strike; all picketing Alaska Airlines flight attendants were on their regular days off or vacation). We are asking our company for a living wage. A wage that will prevent our work group from living in their cars, eating in soup kitchens and qualifying for food stamps. Our flight attendants should not have to choose between paying their rent or buying groceries. Alaska Airlines is once again boasting more than $500 million in profits this quarter. I’m incredibly proud that I had a hand in this success and record-breaking customer satisfaction numbers for onboard experience. I’m proud that AFA went to Congress advocating for a bailout to save our airlines during the pandemic. I’m proud that, along with many other flight attendants, we have saved lives onboard the aircraft. I’m so proud that I have fought off a customer that tried to open a door during flight. I’m proud that I somehow survived several violent assaults from passengers during the pandemic. It was a time in the world when passengers were emotionally struggling in ways we can never fully understand. I am proud that AFA and my government affairs team have pushed for air quality and safety legislation in Congress this year.
Now AFA and every single flight attendant are asking for a fair contract that once again brings the bottom up. We ask the airline to raise the wages to reflect the current reality of a $7 jar of mayonnaise and the $8 carton of eggs. The cost of these simple foods has increased by 300%. Two months ago, Alaska Airlines offered a 9% increase for our new hires (less than a dollar per hour). Our AFA union representatives walked away, shaking their heads in disbelief. The airline is pushing to continue a sick-leave policy that disciplines flight attendants for using their sick leave (illegal in Washington, Oregon and California, all states that have flight attendant bases).
Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines need a new contract. One that provides a living wage, safe working conditions, a right to use earned sick leave without fear of losing their jobs, as well as work rules that allow for proper rest. We hope as a community you will support us in this mission.
Thresia Raynor is an Anchorage-based Alaska Airlines flight attendant.
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