Striking Flight Attendants Suspended -- Union Delays Its First Alaska Trip

Three Alaska Airlines flight attendants have been suspended from service with pay for the first strike against an Alaska flight by the attendants' union.

The three attendants refused to work on the airline's 6 p.m. Seattle-to-San Diego flight last Friday.

The flight, the last of the day to San Diego, was full. It was delayed about an hour while the company got other employees to work the shift, but arrived only 30 minutes late due to favorable winds, said Bill Erhlich, Alaska spokesman.

The flight was the first Alaska Airlines tripstruck by the Association of Flight Attendants, which has been threatening to create chaos for the airline since contract talks broke down in June. The union, which represents about 1,580 Alaska employees, has picketed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and urged passengers to boycott the airline.

Contract negotiations, in progress since 1990, became particularly tense this summer. The union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court charging the company with bad-faith bargaining, unfair labor practices and interference with the union.

The company has said it may replace any flight attentants participating in a work stoppage.

"We wanted to make a statement so we chose a full flight for a 30-minute strike," said Mary Jo Manzanares, union spokeswoman. Due to the aircraft's losing its place in line and other factors, the total flight delay amounted to about an hour. Manzanares said the union will disrupt additional flights if negotiations don't progress soon.

The company and union will meet again Friday, she said.

Alaska made a final offer earlier this summer of a 3 percent pay increase, instead of the 5 percent to 9 percent the union wanted.

Among the major points of contention is a work rule that would make union membership voluntary.