More than 3,000 pilots of Alaska Airlines are getting a step closer to staging a comprehensive strike. The strike may completely ground the airline due to ongoing dispute regarding contract negotiation. However, the negotiations are still on-going but the union representing the pilots has scheduled a strike-authorization vote for May.

Contract negotiation are on-going since 2019

The negotiations among the pilots and the airline company over the terms of new contract are on-going since 2019. However, the onset of COVID-19 halted the negotiation process. On Friday, the Air Line Pilots Association announced Alaska pilots receive ballots for a strike-authorization vote on May 9. The votes would be tallied after May 25. A successful vote in favor of strike-authorization will allow union leadership to declare a strike. Although, any potential walkout is still a long way off and must still clear several major hurdles. The pilots need to receive permission from the National Mediation Board before walking-off. National Mediation Board is the federal body that intervenes in deadlocked labor negotiations involving railroads and airlines.

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    National Mediation Board will determine if the strike can go ahead. 99% of all disputes which are brought in front of the board are settled without any work stoppages.

    Union’s stance

    The union representative stated that they are not willing to stage a strike and they want the negotiations to succeed. However, they claim that Alaska Airline is not willing to meet its demands regarding scheduling stability, pay and other quality-of-life issues. “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. However, we are willing to take any lawful steps necessary, including a legal strike.” Will McQuillen, chairman of the 3,100-member Alaska Airlines pilots union said in a statement.

    The strike-authorization vote is among the series of steps to impose pressure on Alaska Airline. On April 1, hundreds of Alaska pilots picketed the airline’s hub airports as well as its headquarters at SeaTac.

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