Alaska Airlines pilots authorize strike over scheduling and other issues

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Alaska Airlines pilots are negotiating with management over work rules, scheduling flexibility and career-security issues.
Alaska Airlines pilots are negotiating with management over work rules, scheduling flexibility and career-security issues. Photo Credit: Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines pilots have authorized union leadership to strike if federal law allows such an action. 

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said that 99% of union members voted in support of the authorization and that 96% of members participated in the vote, which was conducted earlier this month. The vote came three years after the labor contract between Alaska management and its pilots became amendable. 

ALPA said Wednesday that the existing contract between Alaska and it pilots lags the industry when it comes to protecting pilots from outsourcing. The union also says that Alaska pilot schedules take more days to complete per month than the schedules of pilots at competitors, meaning that pilots spend more days away from home. 

ALPA said that negotiations with Alaska management are ongoing. 

"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 Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA Master Executive Council, in a prepared statement. "Now is the time for management to respond and engage constructively at the bargaining table."

In a statement Wednesday, Alaska's management said, "We remain committed to reaching a deal to provide an updated contract that is good for Alaska's pilots." Alaska emphasized that its pilots aren't currently on strike.

"Our guests and our operation are not impacted by this vote," the airline said. 

Under the Railway Labor Act, which regulates job actions in the airline industry, Alaska pilots cannot strike until the National Mediation Board decides that additional mediation would not be effective. The board would then offer the parties an opportunity to go to arbitration. 

If either the pilots or Alaska management were to reject arbitration, the parties would be required to wait 30 days before initiating a strike or lockout.

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