Picketing pilots at ASA disturb SkyWest peace

 - December 19, 2006, 11:02 AM

Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) pilots on December 15 picketed the company’s newest flight crew base, at Los Angeles International Airport, to protest the lack of progress in their contract talks with management.   

“The ASA pilots want the local community to be aware that they have been in labor contract negotiations for more than four years, despite the substantive profits both ASA and parent company SkyWest continue to post,” said the pilots’ union representative, the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement. “The extended duration of these negotiations by management is unnecessary and a manipulation of the intent of the Railway Labor Act, which governs the collective bargaining talks.”

Four Years with No Deal
The pilots began negotiations for a new contract in September 2002, with ASA’s previous management team. Negotiations have progressed little since SkyWest took control of the airline in September 2005, leaving the sides far apart on demands for what the union calls a “moderate” wage increase and work rule improvements.
ASA pilots last picketed SkyWest’s headquarters in St. George on October 13, ending 34 years of relative labor peace at a company that managed to remain union-free throughout its entire history.

ALPA Comes Calling Again
Now, a committee of 100 SkyWest pilots has started a new campaign to unionize the 2,500-member group. If three-quarters of the pilots sign authorization cards indicating interest in ALPA representation, the National Labor Relations Board could hold a binding election this year. This is the third time since 1999 that SkyWest pilots have tried to organize, the last coming in 2004, when about a third of the pilot group voted to form a new in-house association with authority to negotiate wages and work rules. A company-funded committee called the Skywest Airlines Pilots Association currently represents pilot interests but does not wield any bargaining power.

ASA opened its new so-called focus city of Los Angeles on December 1 to support planned expansion on the West Coast for Delta Air Lines. SkyWest, meanwhile, continues preparations to fly 12 more CRJ700s from Cincinnati under a new Delta Connection contract it won in late November. Wholly owned Delta subsidiary Comair now performs the flying but lost the rights to it when the parent airline opened it to competing bids from independent carriers.