Alaska Airlines Pilots ‘Overwhelmingly’ Vote To Authorize Strike

SEATTLE — After three years of waiting for a new union contract, Alaska Airlines pilots say they’re not afraid to hit the picket line if management cannot work out a deal soon.

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, which represents Alaska Air pilots, announced Wednesday that, with 96 percent of Alaska pilots voting, an overwhelming 99 percent of those pilots voted in favor of authorizing union leaders to call a strike if necessary.

1,500 off-duty pilots briefly picketed last month in Portland, Seattle, Anchorage, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. That picket was purely intended as informational and was not a formal strike.

However, an actual strike is on the horizon if Alaska Airlines and the union cannot reach an agreement, union representatives said.

“For three years, Alaska pilots have been resolved in their commitment to reach a new agreement and today, we spoke with one unified voice, just like we did with our recent informational picketing event,” said Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA Master Executive Council. “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. Now is the time for management to respond and engage constructively at the bargaining table.”

Before a strike can be called in earnest, the National Mediation Board would need to rule that additional mediation efforts would not be productive, and offer a chance at arbitration. If either side declines arbitration, the NMB would institute a 30-day “cooling off” period, after which union leaders could call a strike if they deem it necessary.

The threat of a strike comes at a tough time for the airline, which was already struggling with pilot shortages. Alaska’s pilot shortage began in April, with the airline short 63 pilots necessary to fly its full schedule. The shortage has forced the airline to cancel roughly 50 flights a day, about four percent of its total operations. Relief is expected as more pilots join their lineup in early June, but the airline does not predict a return to normal operations until August— and that’s without factoring in a possibility of a strike.

Source: Bellevue Patch