The machinists' union has reached a deal with Alaska Airlines management for a two-year contract extension that provides substantial raises for 5,300 gate agents, stores personnel and office staff, as well as for ramp workers who load cargo.
The deal does not cover a separate group of about 2,000 ramp workers, also represented by the International Association of Machinists, who work for the McGee Air Services subsidiary and handle baggage on passenger flights.
Richard Johnsen, the IAM General Vice President responsible for airline workers, said in an interview the deal will make this group of Alaska Airlines employees "the highest-paid employees in all of those classifications for the entire airline industry."
In a statement, Alaska's Chief Operating Officer, Constance von Muehlen called the deal "a meaningful investment in our Alaska Airlines airport customer service, stores, cargo, ground service and reservations agents."
She said the agreement provides "a significant, market competitive boost in pay across our team, increased longevity premiums for our most senior employees and extended job security protections."
The agreement, hammered out quickly after just a week of negotiations, should help Alaska navigate part of the current labor shortage across the airline industry, which is under intense pressure with airports and planes packed with summer travelers.
The airline, however, is still embroiled in more consequential contract talks with its pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association , representing about 3,000 pilots.
If the contract extension through 2026 is ratified by a vote of the IAM members at Alaska, they'll get raises on Aug. 10 ranging from 8.9% to 17.4%, followed in the three subsequent years by raises of at least 2.5% — and a guarantee that the raise will at least match that at the fourth largest U.S. airline.
Johnsen said the agreement means new hires will start at over $18 an hour, while the top-of-the-scale wage rises to $34 per hour.
That will help Alaska "to make sure that they lock in any employees that they currently have and to attract future employees," he said. "The airline is growing, and I think they still have a need for more employees."
The minimum wage for workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is currently $17.53 an hour.
In April, the Transport Workers Union, representing about 100 Alaska dispatchers, also agreed to a new contract that includes increased pay with added steps to ensure wage rates remain competitive.
In contrast, the contract talks with the pilots' union have grown heated. Last month Alaska's pilots authorized a strike if the current talks and an extended mediation process ultimately fail.
In addition, the Association of Flight Attendants, representing about 5,500 flight attendants, is preparing to negotiate its current contract with Alaska, which becomes amendable in December.
McGee Air Services, which employs Alaska's passenger baggage handlers, is currently offering new hires a pay rate of $18 per hour at Sea-Tac, with an additional $4-per-hour "reliability bonus" that brings its advertised entry-level rate to $22 per hour.
McGee is also offering $1,000 sign-on bonuses for new hires.
The IAM contract with McGee runs through July next year. Johnsen said he's "looking forward to getting to the negotiating table soon for that group too."
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This story was originally published June 22, 2022 5:44 PM.