Alaska Airlines Loses Attempt to Block Vote on Good Jobs Initiative

Contact: Heather Weiner, heather (at) heatherweiner.com

Alaska Airlines, WA Restaurant Association sought to stop SeaTac vote on living wage, paid sick leave

SeaTac  – July 19, 2013: SeaTac voters and airport workers say they are not surprised Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association failed their legal attempt to block the SeaTac City Council from sending the Good Jobs Initiative to voters later this fall. Voters and community leaders continue to question the corporations’ motivation in blocking a popular citizen initiative that will give workers in and around the airport the opportunity to make ends meet and get ahead.

Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association tried to prevent SeaTac voters from voicing their opinions on a popular voter-backed initiative to bring good jobs to SeaTac Airport and related hospitality industries. Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, represented by corporate law firm Davis, Wright, Tremaine, filed their demands last week.

Alaska failed to convince the judge to order the SeaTac city clerk to not transmit the citizens’ initiative to the SeaTac City Council on July 23rd. Continue reading

New violations by Alaska Airlines and its contractors for exposing workers to blood borne pathogens, caustic jet fuel and toxic chemicals

Contacts: Thea Levkovitz, Thea@workingwa.org

State investigators fine Alaska, contractors; total of 21 serious violations, $68,000 in fines

 SeaTac Airport –  The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has issued new citations for multiple serious health and safety violations against Alaska Airlines and two of its contractors  for failing to protect workers from exposure to corrosive cleaning chemicals, caustic jet fuel, blood borne pathogens, and body fluids including vomit, urine, feces and blood. The 17 new serious violations just announced by L&I, which follow state citations against another Alaska contractor earlier this spring, bring the total for Alaska and its Sea-Tac contractors to 21 serious health and safety violations.

  • What:   Press conference: Community leaders and airport workers will announce citations and demand Alaska Airlines start taking   responsibility for the widespread  health and safety problems in its operations at Sea-Tac Airport
  • When:  TODAY, Friday, June 14, 2013, 9 AM
  • Where: Sea-Tac Airport, North end of departures level of the Main Terminal

The new L&I citations found that Alaska and its contractors maintained unsafe and unhealthy working conditions inside airplane cabins and with equipment used to service Alaska planes.

This is the second time in less than three months that Alaska’s contractors have been fined for serious health and safety violations, and now the airline itself has been cited and fined as well. The fines against Alaska and its cabin cleaning, fueling and passenger services contractors total more than $68,000.

L&I investigators cited Alaska Airlines and/or its contractors for a range of violations, including:

  • Failing to adequately protect cabin cleaners from exposure to blood, urine, feces and vomit and from needle-stick injuries;
  • Failing to inform and train cabin cleaners about the hazards of caustic and corrosive chemicals they were required to use while cleaning airplane interiors;
  • Failing to provide cabin cleaners with appropriate safety equipment such as goggles, face masks and gloves resulting in respiratory problems, skin rashes and damage to their vision;
  • Denying access to bathrooms and drinking water for extended periods of time;
  • Denying workers their lawful breaks and meal periods;
  • Failing to provide access to Hepatitis B vaccines to protect from exposure to bodily fluids;
  • Failing to provide proper time and training to deal with pathogens or to adequately clean and disinfect areas and equipment used by the public;
  • Failing to provide personal protective equipment to protect fuelers from exposure to Jet A Fuel;

In one graphic example, L&I cited Alaska’s cabin cleaning contractor for providing inadequate gloves to aircraft cabin cleaners. The gloves frequently tore or ripped, and, according to L&I:

“Workers were required to clear overflowing bathroom trash chutes by inserting their hand and arm into the chute to push waste through. Workers could encounter leaking used diapers, discarded syringes, and blood from leaking sanitary products during chute clearing.”

The L&I investigation was prompted last fall when more than 50 airline contract workers at Sea-Tac Airport, including fuelers, cabin cleaners and  wheelchair agents, filed  health and safety complaints with the state. Prior to filing the state complaints, contract workers had repeatedly sought to get the issues addressed directly by Alaska Airlines and its contractors. After those efforts at dialogue failed, the workers filed the complaints.  In April L&I issued citations and fines against Alaska’s passenger services contractor, Bags, Inc. These new citations – outlining 16 “serious” violations and 5 “general” violations – were issued against Alaska Airlines; Alaska’s cabin cleaning contractor, DGS; and Alaska’s fueling contractor, ASIG. Under state law, “serious violations” are issued when “there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result” if the problem is not fixed.  The fines against Alaska and the contractors for each serious violation ranged from $2,400 to $5,500 – twice to four times the normal fine level; the average fine for a serious violation, according to L&I, is $1,200.

Since filing the complaints, workers at several contractors have formed unions and called for negotiations with their employers and Alaska Airlines, to address a range of workplace issues. The airline and the employers have to date refused to recognize the workers’ unions and enter negotiations.

Click here http://itsourairport.org/?p=716 to see the full L&I citation notice.

For additional information:   www.itsOURairport.org

Working Washington, a Washington based non-profit coalition of individuals, neighborhood associations, immigrant groups, civil rights organizations, people of faith, and labor united for good jobs and a fair economy.

Huge support as workers, community allies launch “good jobs” initiative in SeaTac

SeaTac, May 14 – Airport workers and community allies are moving forward on a voter initiative to improve the jobs of thousands of low-wage workers in and around SeaTac Airport.

Last week, airport workers who are part of the SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs filed an initiative petition with the City of SeaTac and have begun to collect signatures to get the measure qualified for presentation to the City Council, and for inclusion on the November 2013 ballot

More than 90 volunteers came out last Saturday to gather signatures. The Committee expects to gather enough signatures to qualify to get the measure qualified for presentation to the City Council, and for inclusion on the November 2013 ballot in the coming weeks. A broad array of workers, faith and community supporters, union members and retirees are part of the SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs. Working Washington is also part of the Committee.

The measure would set basic employment standards for workers employed in the transportation, tourism and hospitality industries in SeaTac:

  •  Paid sick leave, to allow workers to care for themselves and immediate family members
  •  More full-time work opportunities for those who need it
  •  Companies that collect automatic service charges, or collect tips on customer bills, must give 100 percent of the service charges or tips to the workers who performed the service
  •  Living wages of at least $15/hour Continue reading

Sea-Tac passengers tweeting from the baggage carousel to support poverty-wage baggage handlers

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New “First class, coach class, poverty class” ads call on @AlaskaAir to #raisethewage as low-wage worker unrest continues at our airport

Beginning this week, Sea-Tac passengers waiting at the baggage claim, smartphones in hand, will see a new ad which enlists them to tweet @AlaskaAir to #raisethewage for baggage handlers and thousands of other poverty-wage workers at our airport.

Standing out from among the more typical airport ads asking passengers to use a particular limo service, stay in a downtown hotel, or support the Gates Foundation, the new “First class, coach class, poverty class” ads — appearing at all 16 carousels — enlist passengers to use their smartphones to tell Alaska Airlines to do something to improve the poverty-class wages and working conditions at our airport. Continue reading