On Monday afternoon, more than 50 pilots and flight attendants picketed in front of Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage. Their goal was to call on Alaska Airlines management to give them what they view as fairer wages and benefits.
While passengers were arriving to catch various flights at the airport, a group of pilots stood in front of the departure terminal. They silently held signs with messages like “This merger won’t fly without the pilots onboard” and “Culture: Ain’t no sunshine when it’s gone”.
Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America last year and became the fifth largest U.S carrier. Virgin had been in similar contract negotiations prior to the merger. Pilots from both Alaska and Virgin — along with flight attendants — were picketing to show management that they were united in their demands for new contracts. Capt. David Campbell is a pilot and spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, the union that Alaska Airline pilots are a part of.
“We’ve been negotiating for almost a year and a half and management has insisted that we should be willing to work at a discount from our peers across the industry,” Campbell said.
Campbell said that the picketing was less of a protest and more of a show of unity. He said the list of demands the pilots have isn’t exhaustive.
“So we have limited these contract negotiations to only three items,” Campbell said. “Those are pay, retirement in the form of 401(k) contributions and job security in the form of scope.”
Campbell said that pilots with Alaska Airlines make about 20-23% less than their peers in other organizations. The company reported profits last year of more than $900 million, but also paid employees $100 million in bonuses in February.
Alaska Airlines spokespeople wouldn’t comment beyond what was sent out in a press release on Friday. The statement said that the company hopes “for a resolution through arbitration that will result in our pilots receiving a significant wage rate increase while maintaining Alaska Airlines ability to successfully grow and compete.”
Campbell said the union has met with arbitrators in order to hash out their proposal for Alaska Airlines management. He wouldn’t say what kind of pay raise the pilots are asking for.
“We believe that our position is reasonable,” Campbell said. “It’s certainly affordable. It’s what every other carrier offers to their pilots, and so in that sense, we’re hopeful that our argument will win the day.”
Campbell said arbitration proceedings will begin next week.