Workers serving 17 carriers at Alaska’s biggest airport poised to go on strike

Unionized fuelers, mechanics and operators who service most airlines in Anchorage, including Alaska Airlines, as employees of contractor Menzies Aviation are preparing for a possible strike as they head into negotiations with the company this week.

But an official at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport said the airlines that use the contractor have other options and could continue to fly even if there is a strike.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents the workers, has been wrestling with the company for months over the right to bargain for a new contract after the most recent one expired.

Menzies asked a federal court in early August to bar its workers at the Anchorage airport from striking. The complaint — filed by Aircraft Service International Group, a company Menzies acquired earlier this year — claimed the workers weren’t governed by the National Labor Relations Act but instead by the Railway Labor Act, which would make it easier for the company to obtain an injunction that would bar a strike.

But the workers prevailed. U.S. District Judge Russel Holland said in an Aug. 22 order that the company “cannot unilaterally withdraw its voluntary recognition of the union” and that the workers are covered under the National Labor Relations Act. Holland denied the company’s request for an injunction that would have prevented a strike.

“We are very disappointed by the ruling and are currently evaluating all of our legal options,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. The company did not respond to questions about what, specifically, it wants from the negotiations.

In a strike sanction vote in June, 96 percent of workers who voted were in favor of a strike, according to the judge’s order. Now, workers are ready to take that action if negotiations don’t move forward.

“Our intent is to get a contract — it always has been,” said Glenn Farmer, a business representative for the district of the union. “What this has always been about from the beginning is our right to represent the members.”

Last week, Farmer said, 100 percent of the workers who voted in another vote favored striking if the company doesn’t “bargain in good faith.”

The Menzies workers serve 17 air carriers at the Anchorage airport — at least 90 percent “of all into-plane fueling services” for commercial passenger and cargo flights out of the airport, according to the ASIG complaint.

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