F/O Brian Coley and Capt. Jasen Cleary hold a banner outside Spirit company headquarters in December.
In early December 2016, more than 200 Spirit pilots gathered over two days at Spirit company headquarters in Miramar, Fla., to conduct informational picketing—making their voices heard in support of an industry-standard contract. As the year closed, the pilots found themselves in familiar territory—building on their unity to achieve the contract they’ve earned.
“Spirit pilots have a strong history of unity,” commented Capt. Stuart Morrison, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman. “Even as we’ve grown, added pilots and aircraft, and expanded domiciles, our core value of speaking with one voice and acting as one union hasn’t wavered. Instead, we’ve grown stronger and more unified.
This strength has been fortified by a campaign of events organized by the pilots’ Strategic Planning and Strike Committee (SPSC), which adopted the slogan “Whatever It Takes” during summer 2016. Over the latter half of the year, the SPSC organized picketing events as well as pilot unity building and Family Awareness events. The SPSC held events not only at pilot domiciles, but also where the pilots live, including such cities as Minneapolis, Minn., and Orlando, Fla., away from the main domiciles—an approach that allowed more of their pilots to attend.
“As we’ve grown, our pilots have become more spread out across the country,” said Morrison. “If we only held events in domiciles, we wouldn’t be able to include those pilots who commute from homes outside of the bases. Instead, our SPSC made a concerted effort to expand our map, even if it meant hosting smaller events. We wanted every pilot to be a part of this.”
In addition to the smaller events, there have also been larger pilot gatherings, showcasing pilot unity and strength. In June, Spirit pilots convened at the annual shareholders meeting at a hotel in Houston, Tex. The pilots lined the hallways as shareholders entered their meeting room—making the message of “Contract Now” hard to ignore. In October, a line of pilots stretched across the entrance of Terminal C at Dallas–Fort Worth Airport in Texas. They made an impressive showing in Dallas, a relative newcomer to the Spirit list of domiciles, where they held their first informational picketing since 2010.
These events have been supported by a campaign of visible unity, including lanyards, luggage tags, and handle wraps all featuring “Whatever It Takes” in hard-to-miss neon green. As new pilots are hired, the pilot group makes sure they are given a green lanyard to wear on the line.
“We wanted this campaign to be visible at every level,” said Morrison. “From our bags to our signs to our lanyards, it all reiterates our commitment to a new contract.”
While the SPSC has been building unity, the Negotiating Committee has been at the bargaining table demanding a contract that includes industry-standard compensation, including pay rates, profit sharing, and retirement. According to Morrison, some Spirit pilots, depending on their longevity, make less than half of what their peers make flying similar routes on similar aircraft. In July, after negotiations stalled, both sides requested mediation from the National Mediation Board and have since been meeting in regular mediated sessions.
“Spirit Airlines continues to be an industry leader in revenue growth and profitability, while Spirit pilots’ compensation lags behind. Addressing this inequality has been our main goal,” acknowledged Morrison, who also serves on the Negotiating Committee. “It’s simply unacceptable that Spirit pilots continue to subsidize industry-leading growth and profitability with industry-lagging pay rates, retirement, and nonexistent profit sharing. To accept less than industry-standard would undervalue not only our contributions to Spirit Airlines, but also our profession as a whole.”
As 2016 closed, Spirit pilots continued to stand firm for a contract that recognizes their role in helping Spirit Airlines grow in both size and profits and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.