I Worked With Richard Russell at Horizon Air, and I Understand Why He Did What He Did

Comments

1

So, short answer: Capitalism.

2

I could boycott Alaska/Horizon and fly Southwest for my travels. Do they (or others) pay their baggage handlers at least the SeaTac port of Seattle wage?

3

@1 - No, think of Starbucks, Apple. The short answer is stupidity. HJ Heinz proved greater profits by treating employees well way back in the 19th century.

4

@3:

True. Even a rabid Pro-Capitalist, Anti-Union employer such as Henry Ford recognized that if you're not paying your employees enough to be able to afford to purchase the product they're making - and upon which your own profits depend - then you're not doing Capitalism correctly.

5

Bad capitalists exploit and underpay workers. Bad socialists exploit and underpay workers.

Crazy how that works out.

6

@1 Anyone who thinks unsafe working conditions and abusive labor practices are unique to capitalism should read up on what was going on at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April of 1986.

7

Wow! Great article. Fantastic that you found this guy, or he found you. It’s very sad. Wages need to go up! It’s not sustainable the way it is. Duh. And shitty that a plane got hijacked and crashed and has caused so much extra work for everyone including another forest fire...

8

This system does drive people crazy and worker controlled work places are a good answer.
Wage slavery is slavery. Down with Billionaires they are inhumane and their wealth is stolen from the backs of workers like these.

Capitalism can be prettied up but it is still destroying lives in many, many ways. We can do better than capitalism. Thank you for this courageous article.

9

Wait, so now health insurance isn’t needed? So can we start eliminating health insurance for everyone under 30 since it doesn’t pay the rent?

10

Fantastic job by the writer and the Stranger.

11

@9 That wasn’t the point Scottie.

12

@9

Use patterns of health care have strong demographic correlations.

Men generally do not start to make heavy use of health care services until midlife. Women on average begin earlier (think ob/gyn) and ramp up more gradually, and toward the end of life use slightly fewer services than men.

I think this is what the article is referring to?

13

As long as we're on that tangent, I didn't get why young men wouldn't use stock options (if they have any value). The point being more that they'd take the windfall, but maybe-money can't be counted on for budgeting and that's where life pinches?

14

@5,

Right, but (and granted we're boiling down unfathomably complex political arguments to a few sentences of slog comments, but whatever) at least when socialists exploit workers, they're doing so in pretty stark defiance of the systemic model. Capitalism almost seems to encourage (or at least doesn't discourage) doing so.

15

In light of the fact that there are millions of people working in undesirable jobs that DON'T engage in suicidal aircraft hijackings, I think it might be possible that the root cause here was a mental health issue.

16

@15 Yes. It's a mental health issue.

Which is harder to deal with on slave wages and minimum health benefits and seek treatment when you'll lose your job.

Particularly in a society largely steered by rightwing shit-for-brains that have cut any public social welfare and healthcare spending for thirty years because it's hurf-durf "SOCIALISM!"

So. Yeah. Let's totally ignore the larger social context these happen with in and just throw our hands up a sigh that it's just a mental health issue and let go on and on and on.

17

I can't believe jobs like this are not unionized by default everywhere. I want to hear the next Democratic presidential candidate commit to enforcing our forgotten labor laws and honing the teeth of the NLRB to razor sharpness.

18

@17 I wonder if we can blame Reagan for this. Firing all of the air traffic controllers to break their union may have rolled downhill. (then again, those were federal employees, so maybe not)

19

To be clear, there is nothing to suggest that Richard Russell was mentally ill. A bad impulsive act is not necessary born of mental illness.

None of us are qualified to make such a diagnosis, much less posthumously.

20

@19 None of you are economists but feel perfectly qualified to make stupid judgements about capitalism and socialism.

So. I think a dude stealing a plane and lamenting on record that he has a "screw loose" while he dives the plane into he ground to commit suicide is enough to casually, and unscientifically, diagnose that there were mental health issues at play.

21

People need jobs and need to survive in the here and now, which is why jobs like these are filled at the wages offered. We can all neuter capitalism by collectively bargaining and using the power of the consumer against the corporations. Capitalism knows this and fragments labor by pitting it against itself, getting it to vote against it's own self interests. This will go on and on in this country until after the next war/revolution. War or revolution is what it will take to change our system. I really don't believe it can change incrementally to favor labor.

The aftermath of the '29 Crash and resulting Great Depression is the closest our country has gotten to revolution since our founding. How was it quelled? The New Deal. Now sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot republicans and their short-sightedness are trying to reverse the New Deal policies. They are pushing our country closer and closer to revolution. So in a paradox, the republicans will hasten the demise of their own systems.

I think it's going to happen and I'm a big proponent of Capitalism.

22

While well written and enlightening, this article didn’t answer why he did it. It more assumes why that person could see why someone would do it. But they weren’t close enough for him to definitively say he did it for the reasons in this article. We’ll never know why Richard did it. It’s sad and tragic though how they are treated and not paid enough and I can’t imagine how people who have served their country are subjected to such conditions. These airlines need to do better overall.

23

There have been disposable men laboring in toil for the benefits of a society at large since the invention of agriculture. What has changed, in the past... since WW2... is that society doesn't love them back and is in fact actively disrespectful towards them. Meanwhile we're complaining that our Music Festivals are too expensive and not fun enough anymore.

24

A very informative letter and I hope these workers are able to obtain better working conditions, but nothing in the letter excuses stealing an airplane and endangering the lives of innocent people.

25

@19 I would say the sustained and ongoing effort to destroy organized labor really got going under Reagan and his administration certainly deserves a good deal of the blame for this.

At peak strength around one third of all workers were unionized in this country and now it is something like 9% (and very likely declining, very likely not unrelated to some recent SC decisions, as most of that 9% consists of public sector workers).

One thing that is super infuriating about this issue is that the white working class who voted en-masse for Trump (specifically the white working class in the south) and who are constantly in a xenophobic frenzy about globalization and foreigners stealing our jobs, have at least since the Reagan era been cheering on anti-labor politicians and anti-labor policy decisions. They all seem to be suffering from amnesia as back in the 70s and 80s they did to northern states what the Chinese have done to them: made off with most of the manufacturing base by offering cheap labor, in that case guaranteed by 'right to work' laws.

26

@13:

As of today Alaska Airlines shares (ALK) are running $65.20 per - at that price one of these employees would have to redirect a half day's wages - money needed for food, rent, transportation, utilities, medical expenses, clothing, etc. - in order to purchase a single share of stock.

@15:

Or, just maybe it's because they don't have direct access to aircraft in the first place, donchathink?

@17:

Given the apparent high turnover in these kinds of jobs it's actually not surprising they're not unionized, as it would appear many employees wouldn't stick around long enough to go through the process of organizing a shop and bargaining a contract, which takes time, especially with a management more than willing to drag out the process and actively work to push workers to the point of quitting before many would even get a chance to sign recognition cards.

27

@15: 45,000 people kill themselves every year in the US alone, with half of them having no known mental health condition.

1.2 million of people in the US attempt suicide suicide every year, and tens of millions of people seriously contemplate it.

The suicide rate has increased 25% in the last 17 years, with sharp inflection points corresponding to the mortgage crisis. In general, suicide rates tend to increase in economic recessions.

There are numerous environmental statistical risk factors for suicide, including prolonged stress, harassment, bullying, unemployment, relationship problems, divorce, financial crisis, social isolation, chronic disease, history of physical/sexual abuse, and loss of a loved one.

28

I wonder who is surprised by this? Welcome to the working class. This is why your parents implore you to stay in school or even better, learn a trade. Plumbers and electricians are always needed. A strong back is expendable and there is an endless supply of young men to be used and discarded by Corporate America.

29

Robotics.

30

@26 You might want to take a step back and objectively consider your position. You are suggesting that rather than this being a highly unusual case of an unstable individual, it instead just the tip of the iceberg, and there are in fact actually MILLIONS of people plotting to do the exact same thing, but they've been stymied by airport security measures.

31

@27 The literature indicates that only 10% of those that commit suicide have no identifiable psychiatric illness. Where'd you get the idea it's actually 50%? Also, isn't a suicide attempt classified as Suicide Behavior Disorder in DSM-V?

32

@21 - " War or revolution is what it will take to change our system."
I would like to respectfully disagree. The 'system' is based in part on a type of money that by it's very design encourages greed and 'cost-cutting'. You can have all the wars you want, but as long as "positive-interest" currencies are in place, the violence you think likely will have no impact on the core dynamics propelling capitalist exploitation. Some changes may occur (eg. New Deal), but it will only be a matter of time before the powerful reassert their greed-based rules.

@22 - " I can’t imagine how people who have served their country are subjected to such conditions."
Wow. Pardon my astonishment, and please let me suggest that you read up on how military service people are treated /while in the military/. Baggage handling is a step /up/ from military service. Those poor fucking guinea pig soldiers get subjected to radiation exposure, experimental medical drugs, depleted uranium, and toxic chemicals of all sorts. And then denied medical care because that would be tantamount to the gummint accepting responsibility for what happened. Better to let them rot.

Eg.: Did you know that the USS Reagan was intentionally sailed directly into the radiation plume from Fukushima, exposing all on board (unprotected, & w/o telling them) ?

33

Well, at least this article was better than Charles Muede’s one earlier this week. I guess the Stranger felt kinda bad about having one of their “journalists” drag a mentally ill suicide victim’s name through the mud so that the journo could make a cheap point about how reverse racism don’t real.

34

@25: "ongoing effort to destroy organized labor deserves a good deal of the blame for this"

Agree. Whatever your opinion about the economics of unions, they once provided a sense of economic security, pride, and community to those in low skill jobs.

"the white working class who voted en-masse for Trump ... have at least since the Reagan era been cheering on anti-labor politicians and anti-labor policy decisions"

Yes, conservatives anesthetize them with hits of nationalism, racism, and xenophobia while they take a scalpel to their wages and benefits. Meanwhile, the left, having grown bored of economics in favor of identity politics, offers them nothing but condescension and disdain.

35

This was a critique of Horizon Air by a somewhat disgruntled former employee, not any kind of analysis of Russel's character and motivation, because the author admittedly didn't know him (apparently just saw him around). Nothing presented in it sheds light on, explains, or justifies why he stole a plane and crashed it.

As with so many other articles I've read in The Stranger, its title is completely misleading. I can only conclude at this point that bait-and-switch titling is an established and encouraged editorial practice.

The Stranger gets sleazier with each issue. Valuing my eyesight and brain cells, I no longer waste time on the writings of Medede and Herzog. Now I guess this is another author to ignore as well. Soon, it will get to the point where The Stranger in its entirety becomes a media outlet we can ignore.

36

@30:

I'm suggesting no such thing. @15 stated that: "In light of the fact that there are millions of people working in undesirable jobs that DON'T engage in suicidal aircraft hijackings..." inferring that IF they somehow had access to aircraft that might make them more prone to "suicide by plane crash". I just semi-facetiously pointed out what a silly argument that was. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

37

@28

That is a good individual solution but it doesn't scale unless you can figure out a way to eliminate all low wage/low skill jobs.

If we want these jobs done and done well then we have to make sure the people doing them aren't being made crazy because of it.

38

This editorial is spot on.

39

@34

I agree that the slow murder of organized labor has to answer for this, and a lot more.

But the backbone of American unions at their peak was skilled labor, not unskilled-- you can see this even in the names of what's left of those unions. This is a huge challenge for New Labor: after 100 years of automation, the core of organized labor must necessarily be unskilled labor, and unskilled labor has the least inherent leverage.

We've been here before-- the guild system was crushed by the first wave of industrialization, but gave rise to "trade unions," which were crushed by The Trusts at the end of the 19th century, but gave rise to "labor unions," which were crushed by the industrialization of previously agrarian nations and the consequent internationalization of manufacturing (or "Globalization," if you prefer)... which, I suspect, will eventually give rise to a new form of labor power (though the GOP and other political organs of the world's oligarchs will do all they can to suppress it, naturally).

@36

We should all be kinda guiltily grateful that line cooks and call-center workers don't have easy access to really expensive suicide methods, eh?

40

@31: "Where'd you get the idea it's actually 50%?"

From the CDC, and the number is actually 54%.

"Also, isn't a suicide attempt classified as Suicide Behavior Disorder in DSM-V?"

Anything mental condition that causes distress or harm is considered a mental illness by the DSM. If that's your criteria, then assuming mental illness based on nothing more than a suicide attempt is a meaningless tautology. It's also callous and dismissive.

"MILLIONS of people plotting to do the exact same thing, but they've been stymied by airport security measures"

I don't know where you got your "MILLIONS" from, but yes, if we all had easy access to commercial aircraft, you'd see people crashing planes at the same rate they commit mass shootings. Richard Russel certainly isn't the first or only person to think - "If I'm going to end my life, may as well go out with a splash."

41

@39:

Well, FWIW, people prone to suicidal ideation tend to make use of whatever is convenient.

42

this is a great article Todd... thanks for adding some perspective!
here is a link for Beebo's wife Hannah... Please share with as many as you can:

www.gofundme.com/provide-for-mrs-russell

43

@40

Suicide is far, far more common than mass murder. You'd see people crashing planes at the same rate they drive cars over cliffs, or overdose on pain pills, or something... I wouldn't want to guess how common the method would be, or how it would shake out demographically, but it would almost certainly be at least a daily occurrence, given that there are some 45k suicides in the US every year, and 25x as many attempts.

Airports across the US must be crapping their pants right about now, given what we know about the suicide copycat phenomenon.

44

@34 - ""Meanwhile, the left, having grown bored of economics in favor of identity politics, offers them nothing but condescension and disdain."

I think if you look closely it's the /Right/ who has been the promulgator of "identity poiltics",... specifically by demonizing anyone who doesn't resemble their preferred identity. This has been going on since the beginning of the nation. Just take the nutjob white supremacists who gathered in Charliottesville last year for the "Unite the Right" rally.... all white men. Chanting "You will not replace us" and "Jews will not replace us".

Privileged people with power demonizing and attacking other groups for being "different" from them is the very beating heart of "identity politics".

So when the Left stands up and says, 'ok, asshole, I /am/ different than you, as you keep insisting, AND I WANT MY FUCKING HUMAN RIGHTS!' ....it's the Right, blind to it's own self-privilege, responds 'Oh, look, you are engaging in "identity politics" (and that's bad bcz we say so), see? You are undermining national unity! (and will be punished/attacked etc.)'

It's a crock of shit, and basically Bully Logic
(eg. I flick your nose every day, you finally punch me, I play victim and blame you for attacking me, you go to detention & get punished, while I walk away.)

45

With this logic, one can jusify genocide or mass starvation because, capitalism. Don’t believe me? It’s been tried.

46

I really wanted to move to Bellingham and work for Horizon. As a former American Airlines ticket/gate agent, I figure I'd be qualified. But I'm not ex-military. For the price of replacing that one plane, all employees could have had a raise. I've had a suicide in my immediate family. Stress caused it for sure. RIP Richard Russell. So unfathomably sad that employees are not compensated fairly. Much love to RR's family, friends, coworkers, community, etc... Tragic.

47

I'd add when your Employer cannot be bothered to supply its Employees with adequate, lockable lockers, etc. etc, they obviously don't give a fuck about you. So, how can someone respect / want to do good work for a company like that?

'The beatings will continue until Morale improves.'
That'd make a great campaign slogan.

@46 Very well said, amyvegan

48

Horizon Air has 1600 employees. The plane cost about $30 million.

Maybe the company ought to think about keeping the people it has crawling all over its $30 million dollar planes a bit happier.

49

While I think it's a leap to attribute substandard working conditions to fueling a suicide of this nature, I do appreciate this well-written article and perspective of the former colleague. I have flown on Horizon for over 15 years at least twice a year and a week ago Friday night while Russell was on his suicide flight, I was in a Horizon E75 (new upgraded jet the writer refers to) parked just after landing in between two runways being informed we were in an "indefinite groundstop". I was still grumbling about how this was my first flight with Horizon without the perk we had become accustomed to, (complimentary local microbrew and wine). Apparently this service had been suspended with the addition of the new jets. I like the old Bombardier puddle jumpers ....more character anyway. So, they are cutting services to customers too. Now I read they pay $3 an hour less than their competitors? Not ok. Has this been verified? If so, I am glad it's out in the open. They need to seriously rethink this. Delta flies the same route we take twice a year so, perhaps it's time to move on. I do commend our crew for their efforts to reduce the anxiety experienced (literally) in the dark on the runway for 2 hours surrounded by 40 planes full of other scared passengers not knowing if we were safe (until of course we all read on our phones he had crashed) My heart was heavy. When we finally made it to Sacramento, after 2 am due to the delays, we found ourselves waiting in yet another line to file our "missing" luggage report. I thought how distraught Russell's coworkers must have been and they were the ones having to figure out the luggage fiasco when a Groundstop with 40 planes involved gets restarted. It must have been a mess for them AND all while emotionally distraught. We never even received an email from Horizon or Alaska apologizing for any inconvenience or at least acknowledging the concerted efforts and cooperation between airline crew and passengers. Last Friday night will not be forgotten. RIP and thank you for going out in an empty plane. One cannot help but imagine how much worse it could have been.

50

Having listened to the tape (in it's entirety - I had access to it), I came away with the following takeaways:

1) Mr. Russel took the plane with no intention of landing it. He made several references to ending the flight by 'putting the nose down'.

2) He didn't like his job. At one point, he made a disparaging comment about pilots, and, like the article author, made reference to the poor pay.

3) Finally, listening to the quality of his voice, and some of things he said - and how he said them - I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that he was high. I don't know if they recovered enough of his remains to do a toxicology analysis, but if they did it might be interesting.

In an earlier post, I suggested that this wasn't something that simply came 'out of the blue'. I was - and am - convinced that there are people close to Mr. Russel holding cards they're not showing. Time and investigation will likely show a very different Russell than the 'all-American boy' we saw early on. Whether that be money troubles, a strained marriage, or a secret double life coming unraveled, who knows? But with this article, the picture is coming slowly more clear.

You don't pay people shit and treat them like shit, and give them access to fancy toys. It's only a matter of time before bad things happen.

51

@42 A GoFundMe page for his wife? A little research will show you that she was part of the reason that "Beebo" was so depressed. He spent years deferring to what SHE wanted. They spent the first 3 years of their marriage pursuing HER dream with that bakery. He knew nothing about running a bakery, but did it to make her happy. When they decided that living in Oregon wasn't working, he wanted to be back in the Alaska he loved, but she refused, and once again, he deferred to her desire to be by HER family. If he was the "primary source of income" (as stated on the GoFundMe page) with a minimum-wage job he hated, what was SHE contributing? He worked long hours in miserable conditons, many miles from home while she worked part-time in a "tea house", warm and dry, right around the corner from their home. It goes on to say that her expenses will far exceed what she can afford. This grift-o-thon is repulsive. Her family can support her if she can't support herself. He spent the last years of his life in some anonymous condo in the middle of suburbia, gave her everything she wanted, and I find it offensive that she's trying to profit ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS more from his misery.

52

So..... after 22 years in the Military as a combat soldier with multiple degrees and civilian work experience, no I wasn't an officer but a simple Abrams Tank Commander... the comments of the 10 year Veteran are suspect.

As far as the working conditions at Horizon are concerned, my 20 something niece has worked there for a couple of years before getting a new job. She returned to Horizon after less than a year because of the people and the work environment. I also have a former Army buddy that has been there for nearly 20 years that loves it. A former Army Officer and pilot that I escorted around Iraq returned to work at Horizon upon his retirement.

A lot of the gripes that I'm reading are from a skewed perspective on the job. This job can pay your bills if you manage them properly. This job can give you travel perks that many desire and are ok with a lower wage (again some of my own Soldiers do this part time for travel benefits). A job like this is not the kind of career that will buy you a house in montlake with a Lexus in the driveway. Could it lead to something better? Sure. That is up to the individual though as much as anything.

53

Well written article. My husband also had a career in aviation for 15 years as a Maintenance Engineer and thankfully left the whole industry due to the same issues mentioned in this article. Another leading factor to under paid employee and conditions not mentioned is the low airfare prices consumers are driving. There are some airlines now advertising “fly for cheaper than a pair of jeans”. How do you think they are able to do this?? Definitely not by taking care of the employees who ensure the safety of the aircraft or ground, or even the pilots nowadays. Aircraft heavy inspections are now being sent to South America where airline can pay lower labour costs but it’s only a matter of time before this is reflected in safety. Flying used to be considered a luxury and prices need to increase to start balancing labour costs and mental wellness of employees. My condolences to the Russell family.

54

@52 the problem is about 25% of the jobs in the US are designed to supposedly “lead to something better.” And the 42% of middle class just jobs are shrinking rapidly. IE: most working class jobs are chronically underpaying with shrinking benefits. Even in an economy that has low unemployment.

So a quarter of the employment market is struggling to compete for the ever shrinking 40% of jobs that pay a living wage - and those living wages are either stagnant or shrinking (if you factor in healthcare costs, etc).

In America people are chronically under-employed. They have jobs. Multiple jobs. And those jobs do not meet basic needs. And that is fucked up.

The fact is working class jobs like Russell’s USED to be unionized and used able to pay for a home and support a family.

We can’t just right off a quarter of our population as just not motivated. Because, A). it’s just not true. And, B). Doing so leads to exacerbated social problems that end up costing society more.

55

@46 amyvegan: How ironic that I live in Bellingham and am a veteran but have neither the interest nor the qualifications to work for Horizon Air.
@46 amyvegan and @47 kristofarian: Very well said, both of you, and agreed. Rest in peace, Richard Russell. Condolences to your family, friends, and loved ones.

56

Did anyone hold a gun to his head to work there? If you don’t like the pay, don’t work there, make a change. I hear so many people on here whining... this is America, the land of opportunity. You want to see what not having a choice looks like? Do some traveling. It’s always easier to blame then to take action. Life is a plane, and you are the pilot, steer it where you want to go.

57

@treacle: Yes, both the left and right use identity politics as a means of consolidating power.

@FSS: I'd advise against quitting your day job to become a self-help guru.

58

You’ve got a job you hate? Tough shit. Most of America hates their jobs. Most Americans, however, don’t hijack airplanes. Shitty pay and people stealing your stuff doesn’t entitle you to endanger innocent lives.

59

Going out in a Blaze of glory will always tickle those who suffer from mental illnesses or just can't take it anymore.
Doesn't matter what type of grunt work you do for a living. You can hear his cry for help in the ATC conversation. Unfortunately also in his voice you hear he already knew it was to late. He knew his only options were jail or death. I think we condition our military personnel to be a structured scheduled war machine. Like a prisoner after years of incarceration without being able to basically do for themselves functioning in normal life becomes difficult. Add the stressfulness of everything that comes with the new freedoms adds a lot of pressure to one's self worth. The institutions didn't fully prepare you for the life after affect. With the Real world after military come shit jobs ,horrible hours,grunt work for a petty wage. I don't condone his actions by any means. But I understand and unfortunately and have seen way to many take the same self destructive path. And lastly this headline grabbing stunt will not make anything change or better for our future. Why ? Because real change cost money and our world runs on a bottom line. R.I.P.

60

Labor-Management is always a force-force equation. This sacrifice was a battle casualty that has brought force to the board room. Not by a man's life but the richochett of press. Those in designer clothes never care about the gritty clothes of the under-world of the lower class. They'll have some designer wine and tide it over by new regulations further castrating those who make the real world work. Russell seemed a kind man. His voice had no malice. Maybe there is a kind voice somewhere in management strong and humble enough to match Russell's.

61

i wonder how many people understand the reason ground service workers make $2 less than burger flippers is because unions are exempt from the minimum wage law in seatac.

62

Just looked at the GimmeGimme - oh, sorry - GoFundMe page. It appears (or it is presented that Richard and his wife were hard core Jeebus freeks; makes it even more strange that RR would check out like that; definitely not WWJD.

Def a lot going on behind the scenes in that household that we don't know. @51's comments are either gratuitously inflammatory and misogynistic, or he may have some inside knowledge. Whatever the case, real and armchair forensic psychologists are going to be picking through Beebo's brain (great name for a band, BTW) looking for clues as to Why He Did It.

My money's still on money troubles, bad marriage, or secret life coming unraveled.

63

At any rate, $100k is one hell of an 'ask'. You can do a budget cremation and service for about 2 grand. The GoFundMe has raised over $20k already. They have no kids, and unless they were in hock up to their eyeballs, this is nothing that the widow Russell can't move on from. From the pix, she looks pretty cute; shouldn't have any trouble finding another god-fearing man.

Is the GoFundMe a shameless ploy to make some serious lemonade?

64

Alaska Air has a long history of being anti-union and anti-living wage. On the rare times I fly I check to see if another airline can get me to my destination at the same price. Hell, I'd rather fly Southwest than the "hometown" airline. Screw them.

65

Holy smokes!!! What a well written article! Dont forget that Alaska also locked out all of their ramp agents several years ago, and replaced them with the cheapest vendor money could buy! There were over 18 planes smashed up by ground equipment in the first 4 months.

Airlines have treated ramp and customer service agents like gum on the bottom of a shoe in recent years. I finally left the industry after 15 years. I got to fly for free, but have NOTHING to show for that 15 years. Money was so tight, I would fly long flights just so I could eat on my days off! Now, good luck getting a bag of pretzels on a 6 hour flight.

I dont condone what he did. It was wrong, and very dangerous. At the same time, if the job is what made him lose it, I totally understand. These bean counters and top executives might actually consider making the working conditions better for them, but i seriously doubt it. I bet they invest in special locking systems to prevent another copycat act. I too agree that it would have been absolutely incredible if he would have landed that plane. I would have loved to hear his reasoning, and understand why he did what he did. I feel so deeply for his family and friends.

I am also a bit saddened that nobody tried to get him on a dedicated frequency to talk to him! He clearly wanted to talk, and I think an opportunity was missed on that area. Dont get me wrong, Air Traffic Control did a great job, but.... Then we have to think about those men and women who guide these planes safely around the world. They too are underpaid, over worked, and short staffed. Perhaps they didn't have anyone extra to take on the radio to help talk him down to safety.

Again, very well written and very accurate!

66

@61 Curious. I just looked into this. It looks like they may or may not have become unionized a year or so ago when Alaska switched vendors? This article is talking about Alaska baggage handlers, which I'm guessing might not include those who work for Horizon but it makes me wonder if you have any idea what you are talking about: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/alaska-airs-baggage-handlers-at-sea-tac-get-an-upgrade/

67

Having worked for Horizon Air and with RR, I can agree with much of this article. The long hours you were forced to work due to understaffing and the sometimes unrealistic time frames they put on you for loading and downloading really took a toll both physically and mentally. Knowing that you’re making way less than the kids inside who are flipping the burgers at McDonalds is defeating. They start out at $15.50. We work hard in every weather condition and you feel like you are not a valuable asset to the company. It’s unfortunate that my colleague had to do this to get light shed on this matter even though employees have been saying stuff for years.

68

To be clear, employees are not offered stock options. They are offered the opportunity to sign up for an employee stock purchase program. The ESPP allows an employee to withhold part of their paycheck (up to 10%) to purchase ALK at a discount every six months. I can’t imagine near minimum wage workers withholding money to buy stock, when they are worrried about the cost of gas and groceries.

69

Working at SeaTac airport sucks for most people. The Port of Seattle, aka the PoS, opposed the $15/hour minimum wage because Alaska Airlines told them too. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, King County Democrats are a bunch of submissive little cocksuckers when it comes to dealing with the PoS. Seriously, try to talk to any King County Democrat about the corruption at the PoS (remember that 16 million dollar verdict against former PoS commissioner John Creighton?), the air and noise pollution caused by the airport (which puts out as much CO2 as a coal burning power plant) or the PoS property tax levy (please explain to me why the PoS, which owns the airport, the port, Shilshole marina and Fisherman's terminal needs to hit taxpayers up and why they aren't paying us a dividend instead) and all you'll get is standard Democratic boilerplate bullshit about the PoS being an economic engine for the Puget Sound area and the State of Washington.

70

not really.

71

If you hate the job so much, why not choose to work somewhere else?

On the other hand, if your skills limit your options to this, how is that the company’s fault?

72

71 - I think you might be missing the reality of it. He was providing the majority of the income, and their townhouse is probably in the vicinity of $1,500mo. Horizon was paying him less than the Washington state minimum wage. He likely had to work as many hours as he could get (plus driving in traffic back and forth) just to keep from being evicted. I doubt he had any time to be looking for a different job. Her diminutive income wouldn't pay even their rent. He hadn't finished getting his bachelor's degree...... he was too busy working. Year after year.

"On the other hand"..... it's no secret why he couldn't get promoted, and it had little to do with his abilities. His "I'm a white guy" comment wasn't off-the-cuff..... he knew what was up. Try reading some of the subsequent comments by other Horizon employees. Used by his employer, used by his wife.... it's a wonder he didn't check out earlier. If he would have left his wife, she would have pinched him for "spousal support" (the state of Washington is vicious to men in divorce/custody cases). This was clearly a man trapped.

73

Broeheem what is your problem? It sounds like you have a personal vendetta against Richard's wife. It was ultimately his decision to stay at a dead-end job and it was HIS personal decision to do what he did. You can't blame someone's spouse for what the other does.