Delta Air Lines Pilots Vote To Authorize Strike

Delta Air Lines Pilots Vote To Authorize Strike

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Delta Air Lines pilots are inching ever-so-slowly closer to going on strike, though it’s unlikely to actually happen.

99% of Delta pilots vote to authorize strike

Delta’s pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), is in the process of negotiating a new contract for members. Delta pilots last received a pay raise in January 2019, and that’s based on a contract signed in 2016.

Admittedly the pandemic has taken a lot of bargaining power away from frontline employees, at least for most of 2020 and 2021. However, with things looking up for airlines, and with there being a general pilot shortage, unions are once again pushing harder for new contracts.

With Delta pilots not otherwise making much progress at the bargaining table, a strike-authorization ballot has just been conducted among pilots. This is the first time that such a vote has been conducted at the airline in over 15 years, since 2006.

That balloting has now finished, and the pilots sent a pretty clear message. Of all of Delta’s pilots, 96% cast votes, and 99% voted in favor of authorizing a strike. In other words, over 95% of all Delta pilots have voted to authorize a strike.

Here’s how the union describes its frustration with management:

Management’s questionable decisions have forced us to carry the heavy burden of ensuring the continued success of Delta’s industry-leading operation. This success would not be possible without the professionalism and hard work we deliver. We continue to fly record amounts of overtime, spending more time away from our families. Fatigue reports are at all-time highs and our quality of life is degraded by the scheduling “optimizer.” The barrage of corporate memos “thanking” us for our hard work devalues the significant positive impact we provide on the line every day. If we are sincerely valued members of the “Delta family,” management can thank us by bringing comprehensive, industry-leading proposals to the table and end these protracted negotiations.

One thing is clear: Delta has money to spend, reported a record windfall of revenue for the third quarter and has predicted a strong financial outlook. Further, in addition to wasting billions of dollars on pre-pandemic stock-buybacks, Delta continues to invest billions in joint ventures and millions in wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Delta Air Lines pilots overwhelmingly support a strike

Does that mean Delta pilots are going on strike?

While Delta pilots have now voted in favor of a strike-authorization, that doesn’t mean a strike will be happening anytime soon. This vote simply means that Delta pilots can go on strike when they are legally permitted to do so.

Delta management and the union representing pilots will have to follow the procedures of the Railway Labor Act, which includes going to go to the National Mediation Board, in hopes of coming to a resolution. A strike would only (eventually) be permitted if that process fails. Even then it wouldn’t be imminent, as there would first be a 30-day cooling off period before a strike can occur.

The reality is that strikes don’t happen often at airlines in the United States, and we haven’t seen one in over a decade. Of course that’s not to say it couldn’t happen in the future. Here’s how the union describes the implications of this vote:

The results send an undeniable message to management: we are ready to go the distance, up to and including exercising our rights to self-help under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), to secure a contract that reflects the value we bring to Delta Air Lines. The RLA allows for unions to be released for self-help, and a strike is the ultimate action we could take after exhausting the required process. A strike is not an action we take lightly and one we hope to avoid, if possible. However, we will no longer accept further delays or excuses from management: we are willing and ready to strike.

This a clear sign of displeasure among Delta Air Lines pilots

Bottom line

Delta pilots overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing a strike, which is the latest move intended to bring an end to the labor dispute between management and the union. It’s highly unlikely that Delta pilots actually go on strike, but rather this vote is intended to express the displeasure of Delta pilots toward management and their current contract.

We saw a similar vote recently at Alaska Airlines — 96% of pilots participated in the ballot, and 99% voted in favor of a strike-authorization. Several months later, pilots ratified a new contract that all parties were happy with. I suspect we’ll see something similar at Delta. For that matter, American and United are in a similar position, and are (hopefully) nearing a new contract.

What do you make of this vote by Delta pilots?

Conversations (18)
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  1. Tim Dunn Diamond

    United pilots overwhelmingly rejected the contract which United and their union leadership sent to the pilots.
    United's CEO has now said that they intend to wait for other airlines to take the lead in trying to negotiate a new contract = which could make sense given that nearly all of the contracts have or will have "me too" clauses.
    It does mean that Scott Kirby's hubris-filled statement that United will soak up all...

    United pilots overwhelmingly rejected the contract which United and their union leadership sent to the pilots.
    United's CEO has now said that they intend to wait for other airlines to take the lead in trying to negotiate a new contract = which could make sense given that nearly all of the contracts have or will have "me too" clauses.
    It does mean that Scott Kirby's hubris-filled statement that United will soak up all of the growth pilot capacity in the industry and leave every other airline to just deal w/ replacing retirees won't happen.

  2. Creditian Guest

    US Gov should issue uncapped work visas for foreign pilots to resolve the shortage of pilots.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Southwest is reportedly seeking to do that

  3. FlyerDon Guest

    When it’s all said and done, wide body captains for the major airlines will be making over 400K per year, and will still be complaining that it’s not enough.

  4. Brian Gasser Guest

    I would think the ALPA would negotiate similar to the UAW. ALPA negotiates with the airline that will offer the most generous terms first, then uses that agreement as the model for the other carriers. I doubt a strike will be called on any airline until a contract is settled with one carrier and the other carrier refuses to match its terms.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      they all are negotiating me-too clauses that will match the average of the highest comparable carriers.
      Problem for the unions is that management at all airlines has to decided to lowball every offer so the chances are real high that the match to the next highest is still going to be low.
      So what are the pilots supposed to do? threaten to strike so that mediators will just say that there is no...

      they all are negotiating me-too clauses that will match the average of the highest comparable carriers.
      Problem for the unions is that management at all airlines has to decided to lowball every offer so the chances are real high that the match to the next highest is still going to be low.
      So what are the pilots supposed to do? threaten to strike so that mediators will just say that there is no one willing to pay higher rates?
      Of course inflation has eroded pilot standards of living but that is true for everyone in America - and much of the developed world.
      And airlines still have to pass something to all the rest of their employees somewhat close to what they will give pilots - and that is why it is really quite unlikely that there will be the massive increases pilots across the country are expecting.

  5. Jerry Diamond

    I remember in 1991, when I was 7-years-old, dropping my Dad off at the airport in ATL and seeing all the EAL pilots walking around outside wearing giant cardboard signs and striking. That didn't really work well for them., did it? In fact, I think the modern day DL pilots might actually have the EAL pilots to think for DL's current dominance in ATL. Anyway, as they say these days, F around and find out. NK might just be waiting in the 'wings.'

  6. ladyolives Guest

    It's a bargaining ploy for now, but nice to see Delta scrambling like the rest of its peers and struggling to maintain slot usage and navigate operational meltdowns. The narrative of Delta being a cut above has faded long ago.

  7. Donna Diamond

    Just hope if they do strike it will not be between Christmas and the New Year.

    1. Chris Guest

      There's zero chance this gets through mediation in the next 2 months. I doubt they even get assigned a mediator before the first of the year.

    2. Donna Diamond

      Thanks, I hope you’re right!

    3. Pete Guest

      These negotiations have been conducted with an assigned mediator present for over two years already, Chris.

  8. Tim Dunn Diamond

    It's more significant that United offered a lowball tentative agreement which the union is pulling and there are multiple United pilot bases that are recalling their union leaders for bringing the contract to them.
    American just offered a contract which was only marginally better than United and it hasn't even been endorsed by their pilot leadership.
    Delta has not even come to an agreement with its pilot negotiators nor has Southwest.

    The frustration...

    It's more significant that United offered a lowball tentative agreement which the union is pulling and there are multiple United pilot bases that are recalling their union leaders for bringing the contract to them.
    American just offered a contract which was only marginally better than United and it hasn't even been endorsed by their pilot leadership.
    Delta has not even come to an agreement with its pilot negotiators nor has Southwest.

    The frustration throughout the industry seems to be as much from vastly higher expectations than negotiators are able to obtain.
    Given that the airline industry received tens of billion of dollars in aid during the pandemic even while airlline unions keep talking about the lengthy time to negotiate contracts, the chances are high that frustration - whether it comes from 99% of pilots or 0.9% - isn't going to result in the size of wage increase that pilots want.

  9. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    I don't for a second believe that 99% of the pilots casting a ballot voted for a strike. Even Putin doesn't get 99% in his "election."

    1. Drew Guest

      I dont think youre familiar with Pilot Unions

    2. Hosea Guest

      ^^^^^
      When you don't know what solidarity looks like

    3. Donna Diamond

      I couldn’t vote against a strike for more leverage in order to make more money and better benefits.

    4. David Guest

      President Mubuto of Congo once got 100% Signs around the capital after the election proclaimed so.

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Chris Guest

There's zero chance this gets through mediation in the next 2 months. I doubt they even get assigned a mediator before the first of the year.

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Hosea Guest

^^^^^ When you don't know what solidarity looks like

1
Tim Dunn Diamond

United pilots overwhelmingly rejected the contract which United and their union leadership sent to the pilots. United's CEO has now said that they intend to wait for other airlines to take the lead in trying to negotiate a new contract = which could make sense given that nearly all of the contracts have or will have "me too" clauses. It does mean that Scott Kirby's hubris-filled statement that United will soak up all of the growth pilot capacity in the industry and leave every other airline to just deal w/ replacing retirees won't happen.

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