Saturday, October 6, 2012

Check out the new blog of our Seattle UCC justice program associates with our Young Adult Service Community:
The Broadway Bunch

UCC pastors and justice interns support Sea-Tac jet-fuelers ready to strike over safety concerns

Alex's story is one you will want to know.  Anyone who is ever a passenger at Seatac airport, in fact, will want to learn this news from Alex (see press reports below.)  In the last month, I have had the privilege to march arm in arm with Alex on four occasions at Seatac and Alaska Airlines and now ASIG.  Each time I am more struck with his extraordinary courage.  As you take a look at the news coverage below, you will see that we all will soon likely be invited to stand with him again.  It is the commitments of our congregation that bring us forth in to step with new friends.  As a justice-centered community of faith, we follow from a tradition, lived by Jesus, to come together to be with those, who are showing they are being unjustly marginalized. 

Alex and coworkers are among many low wage workers, raising safety concerns about the conditions they are expected to work under, in order to give us our first class airport.  Attempts to silence them have included dragging their reputations through the mud, if they speak up.  It was after documenting faulty equipment, that Alex was retaliated against, over three weeks ago.  

The details of the basic safety break downs at the airport make one's heart skip a beat, whether soon to catch a flight or not.  At a press conference Wednesday we saw pictures of truck gear shift parts being held together with duct tape.  Sparks emerging in the process of re-fueling planes.  Fuel soaking on to workers.  In the last month, Alex and community and faith allies have been to City Council and to our Port Commission (Sea-Tac is part of our public Port.)  They opened a plastic bag that held a typical shirt, wreaking in fuel, after a day's work.  The chamber filled with the smell of fuel, from one shirt.  The fuel typically drains on the body in the refueling process.  ASIG offers no place to wash uniforms, so by necessity, they are brought home, forced to mix with the family and children's laundry.

Concerned people of faith know that a grievance for one, is a grievance for all sisters and brothers who should have dignity in their work.  We have been growing in number, each week, as we have been inspired to stand with workers, as members of faith communities and local organizations.  We have handed out fliers to the public at the airport.  We have spoken to airport officials and to Alaska Airlines officials, both at the airport and the doors of Alaska Airlines headquarters.  

Alex has said he takes encouragement as he learns that our congregation is becoming increasingly aware and concerned about the safety issues he and other fuel engineers have raised.  As you will see below, he is hugely courageous.  But he is one of many.  The voices of other contracted workers who are baggage handlers, and ramp workers, and cabin cleaners, and many more, have been asking Alaska Airlines to ensure that they will contract with companies that will not put them in unsafe conditions, and keep them in poverty-wages, with little job security.

On Wednesday, leaders of many faiths were called forth from each of our traditions, to again walk arm in arm with Alex and others to make an effort to speak directly with supervisors at ASIG, the contract company that Alaska Airlines uses to fuel 75 % of planes we fly in through Seatac.  Unfortunately they were unwilling to hear concerns and dialogue with Alex and our group.  

But later that day, as you will see below, Alaska Airlines said they could simply bring in other workers and sidestep those who raise concerns, if need be.  Is this the kind of positive leadership we seek from an airline that so many of us use frequently, and one that can do and has done much good?  And to add insult, as reported in today's October 6 Seattle Times, the FAA now states they looked at the complaints and they have no merit.  Yet, they did not speak with Alex nor anyone who entered the grievances.

As more and more from our congregations add support for these workers, you can learn details below.  Wednesday, we were proud to see our UCC justice interns there, through their placements and Keystone UCC with Pastor Lauren, who joined other Seattle faith leaders from the Church Council of Greater Seattle, and Puget Sound Sage, and Working Washington.  For, we were honored to stand with workers as brave as Alex, and it appears it may need to continue.


a clip from 10/3/12:
Hello Port Coalition Allies,
Thank you for the presence and support in yesterday's Fueler's press conference. Workers expressed to me later how grateful they were to have so many Faith and Community allies supporting them.
The vote by Sea-Tac fuelers to authorize a strike over safety & fairness issues at Sea-Tac was one of the top stories in the news yesterday, with big stories on all 4 local TV stations throughout the day, a major story in the Seattle Times, and reports on at least 2 radio stations. All stories were solidly focused on the safety issues raised by workers, and all named Alaska Airlines as a responsible party. Strikingly, Alaska Airlines saw fit to respond to several of these reports, showing that they are in fact feeling the pressure...

...The activity was a success and further raised worker's vigor and energy to advocate for themselves.... 
Claudia Alexandra Paras
Puget Sound Sage | Airport Coalition Organizer |


Sea-Tac jet fuelers threaten strike over safety, worker's suspension (Seattle Times)
Non-union Sea-Tac aircraft fuelers say they might walk off job (KCPQ-13)
Sea-Tac aircraft fuelers authorize strike (KIRO-7)
Full news conference:
Sea-Tac workers threaten to strike over safety concerns (KOMO-4)
Sea-Tac fuelers authorize strike over suspended co-worker (KING-5)
TV version is

Workers strike at Sea-Tac claiming unsafe conditions (KIRO radio)
Sea-Tac fuelers authorize strike over suspended co-worker (KREM - Spokane)
Airplane fuelers at Sea-Tac Airport threaten strike (Puget Sound Business Journal)
There was also a story on KOMO radio that's not currently posted to the web.
Seattle Times "Morning Memo"