MINNEAPOLIS—- Union officials from the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) voted in favor of sending a strike authorization ballot to the pilots at Mesaba Airlines. The Mesaba Master Executive Council, which is made up of 12 pilot-representatives, passed a resolution by acclamation to initiate the balloting process. Pilots will receive strike authorization ballots with in the next few weeks. Results will be available by the end of October.
The strongly-worded resolution comes in the wake of more than two years of bargaining, including fifteen months of mediation under the auspices of the National Mediation Board. Pilots continue to work under an agreement signed in 1996 that includes concessions that have saved the company more than $10 million to date.
ALPA President Duane Woerth requested a proffer of arbitration from the National Mediation Board (NMB) in August. The NMB continues to closely monitor the parties’ progress at the table, and has not yet made a response to ALPA’s request. If the NMB ultimately makes a proffer of arbitration, either the union or management may decline arbitration, and a 30-day cooling off period would begin. At the conclusion of that 30-day cooling off period, the pilots would be legally free to strike.
Unresolved issues at the negotiating table include substandard compensation. Mesaba pilot starting base pay is less than $17,000 per year, and is only $24,000 after three years with the company. Mesaba pilots who retire with the airline will do so with 25 percent less in retirement savings than pilots at other leading regional airlines. While the union recognizes that certain economic challenges now face the industry, the pilots believe that the significant pay disparities must be addressed.
In addition, Mesaba pilots remain concerned about their job security. Last year, Mesaba’s holding company purchased Big Sky Airlines, a small carrier in Montana, and refused to discuss merging the two pilot groups with union officials. Mesaba pilots fear that their current flying - as well as future flying opportunities - will be siphoned off by the smaller carrier.
Mesaba Airlines operates as “Northwest Airlink” and provides service to 109 cities in 28 states and Canada under service agreements with Northwest Airlines. Mesaba employs 850 professional airline pilots based in Minneapolis / St. Paul, Detroit, Memphis, and Cincinnati.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA Web site at www.alpa.org.