Alaska Airlines pilot leadership to send strike-authorization vote to pilots

ALPA issued this statement:

After three years with very little movement at the bargaining table, the Alaska Airlines pilots are taking the next steps to try to move negotiations forward. The pilot union’s leaders at Alaska Airlines unanimously voted to conduct a strike-authorization ballot among their pilots. This means union leaders are officially requesting the Alaska Airlines pilot group, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association Int’l (ALPA), give them the authority to go on strike when legally permitted to do so. This would only happen if negotiations break down and the federal government authorizes a walkout after the parties exhaust the required procedures of the Railway Labor Act.

The Alaska Airlines ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC), voted 11 to 0 today to conduct a strike-authorization ballot that will open on May 9 and close on May 25. Once passed by the pilots, the vote would authorize the pilot leadership to declare a strike when the group is given permission to do so by the National Mediation Board (NMB).

“Alaska pilots are not looking to strike. We are looking for improvements to our contract in line with the market but that will also allow our company to grow and remain successful and competitive,” said Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA MEC. “However, we are willing to take any lawful steps necessary, including a legal strike, to achieve the contract every Alaska pilot has earned.”

This strike-authorization vote comes at the heels of the Alaska pilots’ April 1 all-base picket, where more than 1,500 Alaska pilots and their supporters showed up to picket on their time off to demonstrate their collective resolve to reach an agreement. This historic picket was the largest of its kind in ALPA’s 90-year history. Currently, there are approximately 3,100 ALPA pilots at Alaska Airlines.

“We lag behind our peers in several significant areas which has resulted in dozens of pilots leaving for better career opportunities elsewhere. If Alaska Airlines management wants to run a competitive airline with ample growth, then they need to get serious about reaching a new pilot agreement that’s competitive that provides job security, stronger work rules, and enhanced quality-of-life provisions that provide flexibility and reasonable schedules,” added McQuillen.

Before a strike could take place, the NMB would have to release the two sides from mediation. Then, after a 30-day cooling-off period, both parties could exercise self-help—including a strike by the union or a lockout by the company.