6/27/2014 2:31:00 PM WATCH: Priest supports delegation of airline workers Wages, working conditions at issue
Photo courtesy of Working Washington
Fr. Jack Mosbrucker speaks to Alaska Airlines shareholders.
Prayer at shareholders' meeting
Here is a prayer Fr. Jack Mosbrucker wrote for workers speaking at an Alaska Airlines shareholders’ meeting:
Loving God you created this world and placed us in it as your people with the commission to build it up by making its resources benefit all people. These benefits and a certain dignity come to workers especially through their labor.
Each of us achieves dignity as a person by the work we do. But that dignity is not attained when working conditions are difficult, or when workers do not receive a living family wage that would enable them to provide adequate food, housing, or the education of their children.
This right to dignity from work has been proclaimed as long ago as the ancient prophets and as recently as when it is today spoken through institutions of religion for all people. The dignity of workers implicitly calls for respect by employers for their person, work situation, and right to organize for their mutual benefit.
We pray that all workers are personally valued and treated with dignity, that they have a safe working environment, and that they receive a living family wage.
We pray that those who control the goods and assets of this company and the gathered shareholders of Alaska Airlines see the benefit of engaging with workers to negotiate their needs, and treat them with respect because this impacts the common good and benefits all.
We pray for a spirit of cooperation which can overcome differences and achieve a fair and honest workplace in which workers can thrive.
Portlander Tina Cummins, 58, works through the night cleaning the cabins of jets so passengers on Alaska Airlines have a sparkling experience.
But the chemical cleaners she uses leave her voice raspy and her nose stuffed, even well after her shift ends at 6:30 a.m. She breathes in jet fuel fumes as a crew of 10 workers rushes to spruce up about 10 planes per night, sometimes lacking vacuum cleaners.
The $12 per hour Cummins receives after seven years on the job does not go very far, she explains, and the pay does not seem fair, considering how important her cleaning is to the success of Alaska, whose share value has tripled in two years.
Alaska announced a record $94 million first quarter profit for 2014.
“I have to budget tight and pray for no emergencies,” says Cummins, who helps support a retired husband, a daughter and a grandson.
She was part of a delegation that traveled to Anchorage this spring to ask Alaska officials and shareholders to improve pay and work conditions and drop opposition to a $15 hourly minimum wage policy that could take effect at Sea-Tac Airport near Seattle.
Were wages to increase in Portland in a similar way, Cummins says she could catch up on medical bills, get groceries and make sure there is gas in the tank.
Father Jack Mosbrucker, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Portland, was a spiritual leader for the Anchorage delegation.
He handed out a written prayer and spoke to shareholders about the injustice of making large profits while cleaners, baggage handlers and ticket agents cannot live with dignity. He countered what he called the sunny “corporate narrative” with stories of struggling employees.
"Pope Francis said, 'Inequality is the root of all social evil,'" Father Mosbrucker says. “This is about justice. That is the foundation. It’s not legal justice but rather about the justice of God which is a distributive justice. God wants all his creatures to be taken care of.”
Father Mosbrucker and others in the delegation want Alaska to pressure contract companies like Menzies Aviation in Portland to treat employees like Cummins better.
“These are front line workers, the people passengers meet,” says the priest. “They are the ones making money for Alaska.”
After the meeting, the delegation was able to meet with Alaska’s top officials, including CEO Brad Tilden.
Outside the meeting, the flight attendant union organized a picket emphasizing a two-year dispute over wages, scheduling and benefits.
Alaska executives say their company is among the fairest in the airline industry and has raised wages for its contract workers. Alaska Airlines said it has raised the minimum wage for most of its Seattle-based contract workers to $12 per hour, an increase of $2 per hour.
Airline officials say despite recent financial success, they still need to be mindful of the bottom line in a competitive industry which has seen dozen of companies die off.
Meanwhile, Alaska has pledged $1.5 million to support job training at Sea-Tac.