AFA Human Rights Activists Build Power in Las Vegas

September 27, 2019 AFA Human Rights activists met in Las Vegas for a training that will help build power for our union and allow us to make the most out of the affiliations we have with other unions in the Labor Movement. This is about our bargaining power, and our ability to organize together for change that matters to Flight Attendants. The initiative was made a priority at the 2018 Board of Directors and adopted unanimously.

AFA Human Rights Activists

Our very own PDX and SEA based QX flight attendants, Joey Ashton and Sirkka Haagen stepped up and volunteered to be an active part of the AFA Human Rights Committee and attended the training in late September. Here is a summary of the training they attended from each of their perspectives.

Hello SEA, BOI & GEG QX Flight Attendants of LEC 16!

It is with both privilege and an honor to have been asked to chair LEC 16’s AFA Human Rights Committee. At first, I was uncertain whether to accept (or not) and if I’ll be able to commit.  After a few days of discerning, I was reminded of my passion for social justice at a very young age.  Having been brought up in a multi-ethnic culture, I have been exposed to distinct social, political and cultural systems that have made me aware of the services needed to improve the lives of the underserved in various communities.  My experiences and my interests in helping people led me to pursue continued education where I was inspired by the works of Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who with their courage and strength in advocating for the destitute have encouraged me to further their work.  Several family members of both immediate and extended relations enabled me to witness their work in the community: their connection with the people as a voice for their issues.  So, I humbly accepted to chair the Human Rights committee for LEC 16 with a whole heart.  

Thus far, my indoctrination to this post has led me to attend AFA-CWA’s 1st Human Rights Committee 2-day training in Las Vegas.  From Horizon, I was joined by LEC 17’s Human Rights Committee Chair, Sirkka Haagen, representing Portland and Medford bases.  Our brothers and sisters at Alaska Airlines were also present, as well as other flight attendants from other AFA represented airlines, hailing as far as Germany and Hong Kong!  Without going into too much detail, the schedule was as follows and I am happy to discuss any topics in person or other means of communication:

• Day One:
Welcome
Labor History

• Day Two:
AFA’s Mission
Organizing

Unconscious Bias

Wall Street 101

Meeting our AFA International president, Sara Nelson, was a treat!  She’s a force to be reckoned.  Her story of when she first started out of IOE in BOS as a UA flight attendant reignited my desire to better the quality of our lives at Horizon.  From my best recollection, her story entailed that she felt she wasn’t paid correctly on her first paycheck because she didn’t get one.  She reached out to management and was told that she would get paid correctly on the next one.  Second paycheck came and the amount was almost nothing!  Frustrated and helpless, she went into the inflight office to make an appeal to a supervisor, where she was once again told that she would get paid correctly on the next one.  Desperate, she broke down to tears.  A fellow UA flight attendant who overheard the conversation walked up to her, consoled her, instructed her to reach out to the Union and handed her a check for $800!  Then she was paid and made whole the following day by UA after reaching out to her local AFA.  She has been indebted to AFA ever since; stayed active to help better the lives of her fellow fly sisters and brothers at UA.  Now, you can find her in almost every possible medium fighting for flight attendant causes as the face of our Union.  She has also stood next to other union members from other industries because “their struggle is our struggle too.”  Truly an amazing woman.  

I am excited to embark on this journey with all of you and ask for your partnership in any capacity at your disposal. I hope to engage our local council in our communities; to gain insights and awareness to the needs as well as issues that people in our local communities face so we can build compassionate bridges.  I hope through that, you will find it as meaningful and empowering.  I would also like to partner with Alaska Human Rights committees and join forces on some projects in hopes of lessening the division line between us and start building bridges together so that one day, we can all walk across together arm-in-arm.  

Wishing all of you every best.

In Solidarity,

Joey Ashton
LEC 16 Human Rights Committee Chair


What a powerful learning event!  This is a new department intended to better connect and unite us all. There is a link to come compiled of all the data from each speaker and resources we asked for we (attendee’s /reps) requested.  Sara Nelson our AFA-CWA President hopes to have it available to us within 2 weeks.

We were told to come with no specific agenda just an open mind and a willing heart!

This soon made perfect sense as it was information overload (in a great way) and emotionally powerful from the icebreaker introductions to the last closing/debriefing!

AFA-CWA Strategic Campaign Lead, Steve Ekerberg facilitated and started our introductions with three opening training questions;

  1. Why are you here?
  2. What is your personal story that led you here?
  3. In a world as it is, what is some good news you have experienced (either personally, read about, seen a video, etc.) that is an example of creating the world as it should be?

We were given 5 min with each question when we arrived but were asked to try to answer these before arriving (my answers much too long to include here).

Training jumped straight into Labor History Led by Ericka Wills and Josh Young; Excellent time capsule of what labor unions have helped us achieve and the absolute blood battle it has often involved over the generations! It would serve all members well to be reminded what has been so valiantly fought for! Reminded periodically, management has never just given anything.

AFA-CWA President, Sara Nelson gave a powerful reminder of AFA’s mission.  WE AS A UNIFIED GROUP ARE SO VERY FORTUNATE TO HAVE THIS ASTOUNDING CALIBER OF LEADERSHIP! If one has not taken the opportunity to hear her represent, I strongly encourage each look her up on YouTube for starters.  She was adamant to be conscience of speaking in inclusive terms and settings among bases.  People already struggle much too much divisiveness!

Meeting on day 1 adjourned at 20:30 and reconvened at 7:30 am.

We wrapped up Labor History, which showed connections of how far backward we, the people, have let things slide to be resurfacing today…proving we cannot get complacent and settle.  STOP SETTLING for crumbs!  The mindset…Oh well, at least we still have this or that…needs to stop.   It is how management slowly chips away at our value and WE are letting it happen.

We then split into groups for activities. Smaller learning groups.

  1. Speaker Anthony Roabinson; Unconscious Bias  
  2. Wall Street 101: Led by Charles Khan. Learning how corporations can borrow against debt, sell and literally shut a business down. Then claim bankruptcy and legally get away with stating they have no money to compensate the workers! LEGAL CRIME! (hard not to feel a bit hopeless after this segment as folks that get away with this have a lot of money, a lot of power and can be devastating to the working people!  
  3. Organizing:Led by Jane McAlevey!   EVERY SINGLE UNION MEMBER NEEDS TO ATTEND ONE OF HER CLASSES! She is inspiring and I wish I could soak up her 30 years of knowledge in the short 3 hours we were allotted. 

I am so grateful to have participated in this whirlwind crash course.  I have only one complaint and a pleading request.  I want and need more time for all of it! Each one of these speakers/teachers could have been an entire event alone with so much to try take in.  I am very much looking forward to their refresher courses and/or continued education courses!     

Debriefing: Lofty goals for our return to base…

  • We were asked to report to our local President about this training.
  • To try to bring 5 people with us to the next local council meeting.
  • To participate in quarterly Human Rights Committee conference calls or any special call to action calls.
  • To coordinate with local President on who will serve as liaison to Central Labor Council
  • Keep up on all AFA organizing efforts and plan with Steve Ekerberg how you and others can help.
  • Connect with another community organization that lives into our Union values.

I will share with you all the link and contact information as soon as it is released to us. I want to leave you all with a thought that Jane McAlevey said as we speak and unite with our fellow members…especially as our negations heat up…and hopefully each is thinking about their part in OUR UNITY: 

 “Are you prepared to stand with your coworker to make the changes needed?”

In Solidarity,

Sirkka Haagen
LEC 17 Human Rights Committee Chair

AFA Human Rights Activists Build Power in Las Vegas

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