Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Alaska Air Reverses Course, Prioritizes Baggage Handlers

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Alaska Airlines is making a significant change to its operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After years of outsourcing its baggage-handling services, the airline will now bring them in-house by establishing a new subsidiary called McGee Air Services. This move aims to improve working conditions for employees and strengthen the company’s commitment to quality service.

A Unionized Opportunity

Around 900 employees from the previous baggage-handling contractor, Menzies Aviation, will be given the opportunity to work for McGee Air Services. These employees, consisting mainly of ground crew and back office staff, will also be unionized under the Machinists union. This move represents a significant shift from the previous decision to outsource the work, a decision that resulted in lower wages for baggage handlers and played a role in the city of SeaTac’s successful initiative campaign for a $15 minimum wage.

Improved Benefits and Pay

The initial wages at McGee Air Services will remain unchanged, but the new contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union will bring about better benefits and incremental pay increases over the next six years. Baggage handlers can look forward to airline travel privileges, improved healthcare benefits, and the opportunity to earn a monthly performance incentive bonus. These enhancements aim to recognize the hard work and dedication of the baggage handlers and create a positive work culture.

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A Fresh Start

McGee Air Services, founded by Alaska Airlines veterans, including its president Dean DuVall, is enthusiastic about creating a work environment that values its employees’ contributions. DuVall emphasizes the importance of recognizing the hard work of baggage handlers, who often endure challenging weather conditions while performing their duties. McGee Air Services, as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, operates independently and competes with other ramp-service providers for Alaska Airlines contracts.

A Collaborative Partnership

The IAM union spokesperson, James Carlson, expressed optimism about the relationship between the union and McGee Air Services, stating that the company cares about its workers. The IAM previously represented Alaska’s baggage handlers when the work was in-house. The decision to outsource the work in 2005 resulted in the replacement of many ramp employees with lower-paid workers, leading to a difficult transition period. However, the establishment of McGee Air Services marks a fresh start and an opportunity for improved working conditions.

Moving Forward

While Menzies Aviation remains a strong business partner for Alaska Airlines, the decision to switch to McGee Air Services was driven by McGee’s commitment to performance, safety, and a leadership culture that aligns with Alaska Airlines’ values. The airline will consider transitioning to McGee in other cities on a case-by-case basis, aiming to improve operations and support its employees’ welfare.

McGee Air Services, named in honor of Alaska Airlines’ early history, is prepared to take things one airport at a time. If successful, the company anticipates additional opportunities to showcase its dedication to quality service. Alaska Airlines’ decision to prioritize its baggage handlers represents a positive step toward improving working conditions and fostering a culture of appreciation within the company.

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