Federal Arbitrator Rules Alaska Airlines Violated Machinists Union Contract

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A federal arbitrator has ruled that Alaska Airlines violated its collective bargaining agreement with International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Air Transport District 143 when the carrier laid off 500 Seattle baggage handlers and other ramp workers in May 2005.

"This ruling is a huge victory for the IAM, Air Transport District 143 and all the hard working airline employees we represent. The ruling sends a message to the airlines that they must respect their workers and their union contracts," says Stephen Gordon, president of IAM Air Transport District 143.

The ruling comes more than three years after Alaska Airlines subcontracted its entire Seattle ground handling operation to Menzies Aviation. IAM-represented ramp employees who showed up to work on May 13, 2005, had their security badges deactivated by Alaska and were told they no longer had jobs.

Since outsourcing the work to Menzies, Alaska Airlines has endured negative press reports involving lost and mishandled bags, flight delays, safety problems and increased customer complaints.

The federal arbitrator who decided the case considered the parties' contract language, which permitted Alaska Airlines to subcontract the ground handling work only if it was cheaper than keeping the work in house.

The federal arbitrator directed Alaska and District 143 to work together to determine the appropriate remedy for the contract breach, but will take the matter up again if Alaska and District 143 are unable to agree on a resolution.

Air Transport District 143 represents 3,560 members on Alaska Airlines.