We are asked frequently about the status of this long-standing dispute. It has been strangely quiet for the past few weeks following an unusual Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant picket at Honolulu International Airport. We’re waiting for news and are cautiously optimistic that this silence indicates significant progress is being made!
The most recent December demonstration took a starkly different tone compared with prior picketing both in Honolulu and Los Angeles. This time, flight attendants used the kill them with kindness technique, greeting passengers, and assisting with bags and in other ways. After the picket, they even presented lei at the company’s nearby corporate headquarters.
“We really decided to change the message,” said Jaci-Ann Chung, union representative. “We felt that this was a more natural extension of what the flight attendant community is.”
Hawaiian Airlines’ flight attendants had previously voted overwhelmingly to strike, as the company simultaneously celebrated its 90th birthday. The cabin crew is fighting for a better contract and benefits that have been the subject of an ongoing dispute for over two years. It was the first time in the airline’s 90 year history, that Hawaiian Airlines’ 2,100 flight attendants voted to strike. Their decision was virtually unanimous.
Mechanic contract negotiations up next.
Another union, IAM, is currently negotiating with the company on behalf of approximately 2,200 mechanics and other personnel. There is a goal for those talks to be completed by April.
When could a flight attendant strike occur?
First, it is still remains too early to know if a strike will actually happen. But for now at least, no immediate strike is possible. Here’s what’s going to happen next:
– The mediation board (NMB) must make the determination that deadlock exists. We have not heard word that has occurred.
– Thereafter, NMB would set a 30 day cooling off period.
– The parties would then be released from mediation.
– Subsequent to the above, a strike action could be announced.
Given the above steps required prior to a strike, it appears the first possible date an action could occur would be in February or after (and hopefully never).
The fight attendants’ union represents a total of 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines. In addition to pay, issues include layover rest, minimum hours worked and sick leave.
How much do Hawaiian flight attendants earn?
Hawaiian flight attendants start at $25 an hour, while those with 20+ years make up to $55 per hour, according to the union. “Some of these flight attendants are well into their 60s and 70s but can’t afford to retire. And management is trying to erode protections and work rules that were gained in previous negotiations.” — Andrew Feldman, AFA. By comparison, Southwest flight attendants are said to make up to $71 an hour.
History of the flight attendant dispute.
Hawaiian Airlines previously indicated that it has achieved tentative agreement on many of the issues since negotiations began in 2017. The company said that its “flight attendants deliver the best hospitality in the industry, and that the company is focused on finalizing a new contract that “recognizes our employees’ contributions to our success, reflects our industry standing, and allows Hawaiian to remain competitive and continue to grow.
Flight attendants said, “We transformed this job into a career over decades of bargaining; we are not going backwards.” That according to Sharon Soper, AFA Hawaii President. “We will not agree to concessions while Hawaiian Airlines makes record profits.” The union also said that Hawaii has one of the highest costs of living for any U.S. state, and Hawaiian flight attendant pay has fallen in comparison with the rest of the industry.
Beat of Hawaii’s take as of 1/20/20.
We continue to believe that there will either be no strike (most likely outcome), or if there is one, that it will be of short duration. A prolonged strike would be destructive, coming in the midst of a very challenging time in Hawaii travel, with the rapid ramp up of competition from Southwest Hawaii flights.
Hawaiian Airlines can ill afford any interruption in service, no matter the cost, especially over the next twelve months. Therefore, this remains the best time for the flight attendants to push for an immediate contract resolution.
Photo depiction of Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner.