Saturday, September 15, 2012

March on Alaska Airlines

So much has happened since the four of us moved in a little under two weeks ago! Orientation week involved quite a bit more than the traditional team builders and visiting of internship sites. Don’t get me wrong- we did that too and there is no better team builder than moving bunk beds and couches around tight corners- but we also ended up doing some pretty unconventional introductory activities as well. One of the most exciting things we did was participate in a march on the headquarters of Alaska Airlines, which is located in SeaTac. Alaska Airlines contracts out its employees so that they do not have to take responsibility for their wellbeing and so they can save money. These contract employees work under harsh and demanding conditions making barely above minimum wage, which doesn’t allow most to pay for health insurance, and still not making enough to keep their family above the poverty level.  The CEO made a promise last May that he would meet with workers to hear their stories, but failed to do so within the 60 day window that he set. We were told that we were “meeting” with CEO Brad Tilden, but the meeting actually was a march with 500 workers and union representatives, as well as 50 clergy to the office of Brad Tilden and ask to speak with him. Not surprisingly, we didn’t get to speak directly to him but he did send down two of his executives to respond to the faith leaders and workers who had come to see him. It was so incredible to be a part of that movement and see how much the workers appreciated having so many people, and especially people from the faith community, there to support them and validate that their concerns were heard. One of the executives even had a tremble in his voice as he spoke and I don’t know if it was because he saw the flaws in the system he is a part of or was just wondering how he was going to go to church on Sunday morning, but it was a big step forward. I was able to talk to a lot of the workers and hear about how long and hard they work for so little, and while it was great to be doing something about it, the depth and breadth of social justice issues in my backyard was still striking.

This is the type of event that takes a lot of planning and preparation and some of the key players were our internship sites- including Puget Sound SAGE (where Marianne is), The Church Council of Greater Seattle (my site), and Faith Action Network (where Stephen is). This means that these are the types of events that we will be a part of planning in the coming year and that is what I am so excited for!

This is a link to the article that was written about the event!

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