JetBlue Pilots Union: Airline Employees Vote for Representation

Image: JetBlue Pilots Union: Airline Employees Vote for Representation

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 11:56 AM

By Michael Mullins

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JetBlue pilots voted this week to join the Air Line Pilots Association, an 83-year-old union that represents nearly 50,000 pilots at 31 airlines in the United States and Canada.

Of the 2,600 pilots employed by JetBlue, 96 percent were eligible to vote and 71 percent of those who did supported the union initiative, Reuters reported. The vote marked the first successful union drive by a group of workers at JetBlue. On two prior occasions in 2009 and 2011, pilots attempted but failed to garner enough support to establish an independent bargaining unit at the airline.

Following the announcement, ALPA said Tuesday that JetBlue pilots would now be entitled to the union's medical advisers and insurance benefits.

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"JetBlue pilots have voted for ALPA representation so that we have the ability to improve our professional careers," Gustavo Rivera and Rocky Durham, co-chairmen of the organizing committee at the airline, said after the vote, The Washington Post reported.

The decision to unionize will likely lead to higher pay and pension as well as improved healthcare benefits for the pilots, though industry efforts doubt the pilots would push salary issues to such an extent that it would affect the airline's low-cost status.

According to CNN, JetBlue pilots already make on average slightly more than pilots at rival airlines. Citing data from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Airline Data Project, the network reports that,while a pilot at the unionized Southwest Airlines earned $185,000 in 2012, their counterpart at JetBlue earned a total of $187,000 in salary plus benefits during the same time period.

Additionally, earlier this year JetBlue announced it would be raising its pilots' salaries by a base rate increase of 20 percent, which would result in operational cost increases of up to $145 million over the next few years, with a $30 million increase occurring in 2014, followed by a $50 million increase in 2015, and a $65 million increase in 2016, Reuters noted.

As news of the unionization spread to Wall Street, JetBlue's stock took a hit Tuesday, falling nearly 2 percent in trading by day's end to $8.59 per share.

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