Flight attendants for Hawaiian Airlines have voted to authorize a strike, the union representing the workers announced Nov. 20.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA reported 95% of the Hawaiian attendants participated and 99.9% voted in favor of a strike in case ongoing negotiations do not result in an agreement.
"This historic strike vote takes our contract fight to an entirely new level," Sharon Soper, president of the AFA Hawaiian chapter, said in a statement. "Hawaiian flight attendants are sending an emphatic message to management: Delay is not acceptable; we demand the contract we deserve because we earn it every day. We are safety professionals, and management must acknowledge our worth. Hawaiian is profitable and the time has come for Flight Attendants to share in what we have helped create."
According to union reports, Hawaiian Airlines attendants are paid less on average than attendants at competing airlines while generally living in cities with above-average cost of living.
Negotiations on a new contract started in January 2017, and are overseen by the National Mediation Board following a stipulated collective bargaining process. Hawaiian flight attendants have picketed at Honolulu and Los Angeles airports during the previous six months. The union is seeking higher wages and enhanced benefits for the roughly 2,000 Hawaiian Airlines attendants it represents.
In response, Hawaiian Airlines noted a strike would be illegal under federal law pending the National Mediation Board releasing both parties from mediation and a subsequent 30-day cooling-off period.
"Having said that, we understand what this vote symbolizes, and we share the sentiment of frustration with the slow pace of these negotiations that it conveys," the airline's statement said. "There is no doubt that our flight attendants deliver the best hospitality in the industry, and we are determined to reach an agreement that recognizes their contributions to our success with increases in compensation while ensuring that our company can remain competitive and continue to grow."
Hawaiian flight attendants at the top of the pay scale earn $55 per hour, while some competitors pay top-scale flight attendants up to $71 per hour. Flight attendants point out that they are only paid for time spent in the air, which typically is between 75 and 100 hours per month.
In addition to higher wages, Fuke explained they're also seeking retirement benefits, and to maintain contractual protections that establish protocols such as the length of work days and how many attendants staff each plane.