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Alaska Air Stymies Would-Be Protesters With Online-Only Shareholders Meeting

Alaska Air flight attendants protesting outside the annual shareholders meeting in Seattle in 2013

For the past few years, labor activists have staged protests at Alaska Air Group’s annual shareholders meeting, but this year, the company will conduct the meeting online instead of in person. 

In 2013, flight attendants pushing for better pay carried signs outside Alaska’s shareholders meeting and chanted, "What do we want? A contract! When do we want it? Now!"

Inside the meeting, baggage handlers and other ground crew employed by Alaska’s subcontractors protested as well, even breaking into song at one point, to draw attention to their low wages.

In years since, they showed up at annual meetings to protest Alaska’s legal challenge of the $15 minimum wage law in SeaTac. In 2014, when the company moved its shareholders meeting to Anchorage, about a dozen protesters traveled there to attend, according to labor activist Jonathan Rosenblum. 

Rosenblum, who was director of the Sea-Tac Airport workers campaign for the group Working Washington,  said he’s disappointed that Alaska decided to not hold an in-person shareholders meeting this year.

"They will be making sure this is a meeting that’s orderly in their minds and avoids any of the controversies that might make executives uncomfortable," Rosenblum said. 

Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said in a statement that the company is committed to open and honest communication and that Alaska wants to reach a broader group of investors who in the past haven’t been able to attend the meeting in Seattle.

She said shareholders can submit questions electronically. 

Other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, have also shifted to virtual annual meetings. Still, companies can do both - Microsoft holds an in-person shareholders meeting and streams it online. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.