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Alaska Airlines reaches tentative labor deal with flight attendants

New York CNN  —  Alaska Airlines and its 7,000-member flight attendants union reached a tentative labor deal late Friday, concluding talks that lasted more than a year and a half. Terms of the deal have not been released, though the union called it a “record contract.” The deal likely contains a significant pay raise, which has been a common demand across the airline industry and sought by unions whose members in some cases have not seen a pay increase in years. In April, the union announced to members it was seeking pay raises of between 43% to 56%, depending upon seniority, through 2026. Those pay raises would include back pay covering a period dating back a year and a half that they’ve worked under the terms of the previous contract. “Your actions over the last two years of bargaining … ensured we had the leverage to extract every last dollar from Alaska Airlines management,” the union said Friday in a statement to its members. Alaska Airlines said it was pleased to have reached an agreement and thanked union negotiators. “With our combined efforts, we’ve been able to reach an agreement that provides quality of life and continued career growth at Alaska,” the airline said in a statement. The agreement still needs the approval of union leadership and rank-and-file members to go into effect. In this National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) handout, plastic covers the exterior of the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX on January 7, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by NTSB via Getty Images) NTSB/Getty Images Related article FBI tells Alaska Airlines passengers they may be ‘victim of a crime’ In February, rank-and-file members voted 99.5% in favor of authorizing a strike. However, under the Railway Labor Act, the labor law that covers airline workers, its members could not go on strike, even though their contract had reached its scheduled end date in December 2022. Instead, the union members continued to work under the terms and pay dictated by that contract. Such restrictions on striking don’t exist for most private sector employees. In February, flight attendants from Alaska — along with American, United and Southwest —held unprecedented coordinated pickets demanding new contracts. Since then, flight attendants at Southwest reached a deal that included an immediate 22.3% raise as of May 1 and $364 million in retroactive wages. Meanwhile, flight attendants at American and United are still seeking new deals. American flight attendants have asked to be released from restrictions so they can go on strike, but even if that is granted there would be months of cooling off periods before they could walk out, under the Railway Labor Act. Steve Maller, a flight attendant for nearly 20 years, was among those on the picket lines in February. Maller was one of the flight attendants on the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which drew international attention on January 5 when a door plug blew off, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane. Maller told CNN in February that he and the other members of the flight crew were commended by Alaska Airlines’ top management for their actions in the plane, which landed without serious injuries. But he said he picketed because the existing contract did not provide a livable wage for too many flight attendants. Maller said he has worked at times as a bartender and that most flight attendants he knows also have second jobs. “You have to have something to have livable pay, to make ends meet,” he said. Maller said he’s also worried the airline is losing too many veteran flight attendants who have gone years with little or now wage increase. “It was unheard of five years ago (for flight attendants to) quit their jobs,” he said. “Now we have 20, 25, 30 a month (quitting).”