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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Alaska Airlines pilots are getting closer to going on strike over a stalled contract negotiation

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Around 3,100 Alaska Airlines pilots have taken a step closer to launching a historic strike that could bring the carrier to a halt in a long-running dispute over stalled contract negotiations.

The Seattle-based carrier’s pilots will vote on whether to approve a strike in the near future, though any prospective walkout is still a long way off and must overcome several big barriers.

“Alaska pilots are not looking to strike,” commented Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the master executive council at the Alaska Airlines branch of the ALPA union.

“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,” Capt. McQuillen continued.

“However, we are willing to take any lawful steps necessary, including a legal strike, to achieve the contract every Alaska pilot has earned.”

The procedure of staging a strike is lengthy, and it is governed by laws laid out in the Railway Labor Act, which can make it nearly impossible for airline workers to take strike action.

If pilots vote to authorize a strike, the pilot union must appeal to the national mediation board for a declaration that negotiations have broken down. Before the strike is finally allowed by the federal government, the union and airline would be given a 30-day cooling-off period.

Although the chances of clearing that final obstacle are slim, the current White House administration is thought to be significantly more likely than past administrations to order an airplane strike.

The strike vote comes after a huge picketing incident on April 1 in which almost half of Alaska’s pilots protested at airports across the country.

Hundreds of Alaska flights were forced to be canceled on the same day, but the airline claims the disruption was caused solely by poor planning and had nothing to do with the demonstrations.

Alaska Carriers, according to the union, is having trouble recruiting and retaining pilots because its compensation and perks aren’t competitive with those offered by rival airlines.

Contract talks have been going on for three years with no progress. Despite the fact that the pandemic has slowed talks, there has been little progress between the two parties.

“We lag behind our peers in several significant areas which has resulted in dozens of pilots leaving for better career opportunities elsewhere,” explains Capt. McQuillen.

“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”.

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