The union for Alaska Airlines' baggage handlers asked a federal court yesterday to order the carrier to give back 472 workers' jobs at Seattle-Tacoma...
The union for Alaska Airlines’ baggage handlers asked a federal court yesterday to order the carrier to give back 472 workers’ jobs at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The airline replaced the unionized workers early Friday morning with employees of Menzies Aviation. The switch led to long delays in getting luggage to passengers on Friday and Saturday, the company said.
Now the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has asked the U.S. District Court in Seattle to restore the baggage handlers’ jobs and order the airline to bargain in good faith.
The union claims Alaska illegally locked out the workers and is asking the court to act immediately, saying the workers could suffer irretrievable losses while waiting for the case to be heard.
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Alaska Air Group’s annual shareholder meeting will be held today at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, and the IAM plans to be there to protest the lost jobs. The carrier’s pilots also will show up, though not formally protesting. “We will attend as a show of displeasure with the approach management is taking,” said Jenn Farrell, a spokeswoman for the Air Line Pilots Association. That union sued the airline Friday, asking the court to vacate an arbitrator’s decision that cut pilot pay by an average of 26 percent.
Alaska said yesterday that the pilots’ case has no merit. “We’ll be asking a judge to dismiss it,” said Caroline Boren, an airline spokeswoman. “Coming into the arbitration process, the parties signed a contract agreeing that the decision would be final and binding.”
Boren said the airline also believes it will prevail in the decision to hire Menzies, because language in the baggage handlers’ contract says the company can contract out work under certain conditions.
Alaska has said it expects to save at least $13 million a year by using Menzies instead of unionized workers for baggage handling at Sea-Tac.
The move to Menzies was choppy at times over the weekend.
Alaska Airlines passengers arriving at Sea-Tac after 2:30 p.m. Friday and after 3 p.m. Saturday experienced long delays in getting their luggage. Some waited one to two hours, Boren said.
“It was caused by a group of folks building their familiarity with the airport,” Boren said of the Menzies employees. About 160 other Alaska Airlines workers stepped in to help when things got rough, and about 55 of them continued to help Menzies employees yesterday.
Most passengers got their bags in about 20 minutes on Sunday and yesterday, though some waited up to an hour, said Boren. Alaska typically delivers luggage within 20 minutes of when people deplane at Sea-Tac, she said.
Some flights were delayed because of baggage-handling problems, Boren said.
Most of those delays originated with maintenance problems that led to plane changes, which caused extra, unexpected work for the baggage handlers, but those delays would have happened even with unionized workers, she said.
People who changed planes in Seattle on Friday and over the weekend lost more luggage than usual on Alaska, Boren said. Those losses were back to normal as of yesterday.
Commenting on Alaska’s baggage-handling problems over the weekend, IAM spokesman Joseph Tiberi said, “You get what you pay for.”
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or email@example.com