After three years of negotiations with Alaska Airlines, the carrier’s pilots have voted overwhelmingly to authorize their union to strike if agreement on a new employment contract cannot be reached.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) announced yesterday that 99% of union members voted in support of the authorization and that 96% of members participated in the vote earlier this month. The vote followed picketing last month by 1,500 off-duty pilots, a number representing nearly half of the pilots employed by the airline. Pilots and their supporters lined airports at every Alaska Airlines base, creating the largest event of its kind in ALPA’s history.
Alaska Airlines quickly issued a statement to stress that pilots are not currently on strike.
Indeed, a strike, if it comes to that, would be months away. Before such an action can take place, the NMB must do two things. First, it must determine that any additional mediation efforts would not be productive. Second, it must offer the parties an opportunity to arbitrate the contract dispute.
If either side declines the arbitration, both parties would then enter a 30-day cooling off period. Only afterward could the pilots union call a strike or airline management call a lockout.
Like every other carrier, the fifth-largest airline in the United States is still clawing its way out of the pandemic hole. Alaska Airlines reported a net income of $478 million for 2021, compared to a net loss of $1.3 billion for 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the carrier’s reported net income was $769 million for 2019.
ALPA said that a strike would be a last resort. “For years, we have been working toward a market-based contract with reasonable solutions that address work rules, scheduling flexibility, and career-security issues that pilots at other companies enjoy — not a strike,” said Captain Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA Master Executive Council. “Now is the time for management to respond and engage constructively at the bargaining table.”
This article originally appeared Forbes
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