American Airlines pilots vote in favour of strike

American Airlines pilots have voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking, despite claims from the airline that negotiations are still in progress.

The vote was announce Monday. However, no walk-offs are imminent. Federal law makes airline worker strikes difficult to pursue, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Allied Pilots association, which represents more than 15,000 American Airline pilots, 99 per cent of the vote was in favour of authorising a strike, with 96 per cent of its membership participating in the vote.

American Airlines told the paper on Monday that it believes it can come to an agreement with the pilots’ union soon. It said the strike vote was indicative of the pilots’ sense of urgency heading into negotiations.

“The finish line is in sight,” a spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal. “We understand that a strike authorization vote is one of the important ways pilots express their desire to get a deal done and we respect the message of voting results.”

Ed Sicher, the union president, offered similar sentiments, saying that his members are ready to strike if necessary, but noted that reaching a new contract agreement is still in the realm of possibility.

The pilots are asking for amendments to scheduling and work practices that they believe will improve their lives and make air travel more reliable.

“The best outcome is for APA and management to agree on an industry-leading contract – achieved through good-faith bargaining,” he said.

American Airlines has agreed to match pay with increases won by Delta Air pilots earlier this year.

Many of the contract negotiations happening now are continuing discussions that began years ago and were halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Airlines encouraged pilots to retire during the pandemic due to the sharp decline in air travel, but a rebound in post-pandemic travel has left airlines with a shortage of pilots.

Pilots for Southwest Airlines are likely to begin voting on a similar strike authorisation later this month.

US labour laws governing airline workers require that both workers and management exhaust all avenues of negotiation before they can legally strike. The National Mediation Board would have to concur that no path forward exists and offer both sides arbitration before they are forced into a month long “cool off” period before a strike can be called.