HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Monday, more than 2,100 Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants will begin voting on whether they should authorize a strike.
This will be the first strike vote by flight attendants in the company’s 90-year history, and it comes after nearly three years of stalled contract negotiations.
The employees, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, say they are asking for a fair wage increase, better retirement benefits, and an improved sick leave and vacation policy, at a time Hawaiian is raking in record profits.
“We feel like we’re not being valued,” said Jaci-Ann Chung, flight attendant and AFA-CWA’s local executive council president. “We feel like the company is saying if you don’t want to do it, hundreds of people are lining up out the door. To be seen as just as number is really horrific. It’s heartbreaking.”
Right now, the union says first-year Hawaiian flight attendants make $24.50 an hour and senior employees earn $55.52 an hour.
Officials say the highest-paid flight attendants at Southwest Airlines make about $71 an hour.
Chung says while their hourly rate still seems attractive, she says they don't have normal 40-hour work weeks.
"Really our pay is 75 hours as a minimum each month, so our newest flight attendants make on average $23,000 a year. We have flight attendants that have two jobs, three jobs just to make ends meet," said Chung.
In a statement, Hawaiian Airlines says 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."
Hawaii News Now spoke to several travelers, who said Hawaiian’s flight attendants provide excellent service.
"I think that they definitely need to be paid more," said traveler Marino Espinoza. "Respect wise, they are the best that I've flown with, so I think they deserve a lot more."
"I'm kind of shocked to hear they're actually getting paid less than other airlines," said traveler Scott Bell. "I always feel safe, they're very informative, and any time I ever need something, I got it."
The company says it has reached tentative agreements on more than half of the sections being negotiated, and that both parties remain actively engaged in mediating sessions scheduled into December.
Flight attendants have three weeks to cast their votes with the vote count scheduled for Nov. 20.