Spirit Pilots Stand Strong in Early Hours of Strike
June 12, 2010 – No rest for the weary, but the determined stay strong. Spirit pilots, and many supporters, returned to the picket line today following the long-awaited strike announcement at 5 o’clock this morning. Their signs had a new message: Spirit Pilots On Strike.
It was the final weapon in their arsenal for gaining a fair contract, one that could cripple the company, further demonstrating the obvious and critical need for airline pilots. Without them, the planes stay parked, and Spirit pilots have vowed not to fly the line until management comes to the table with a deal that recognizes the worth of a professional pilot.
“No one wanted this strike—certainly not this pilot group,” said Capt. Sean Creed, Spirit pilot group chair. “We have sacrificed so much to see this company prosper. Now we are sacrificing our paychecks until we get a contract that reflects our contributions to this airline.”
Media swarmed at all picketing locations, eager to make the most of the strike story. With dramatic scenes of deserted gates and parked, empty Spirit airplanes, reporters from all of Detroit’s major media converged on DTW, where 56 aviators from American Eagle, ASA, Compass, Delta, ExpressJet, and Spirit marched in solidarity under the eye of Detroit police.
Despite suffering the heat of the blazing sun, many marchers had to be ordered to leave the 20-person picket line so that others could take their place. “These guys are acting like they’ve waited four years to do this,” quipped one Spirit captain as he waited in line for his turn.
While the picketers walked the line, other pilots made plans to station observers around the airport perimeter with high-powered telescopes and cameras to ensure that the seven grounded aircraft parked at the airline’s maintenance hangar stay put.
And as Spirit crews continued to trickle back into DTW after being stranded from dozens of canceled trips, Detroit proved its reputation as the cradle of the American labor movement when a group of United Auto Workers unexpectedly arrived to show their solidarity and deliver cases of drinking water for the ALPA strikers.
Members of the Teamsters and UniteHere! Local 355 (the union representing airport in-flight, concession, and retail workers) showed equal support in Ft. Lauderdale, where ALPA pilots from AirTran, Alaska, Delta, Spirit, and United continued circling both the airport entrance en masse and the Spirit gate four pilots at a time due to airport restrictions.
With news of the strike confirmed, Spirit pilots began arriving at the Atlantic City Strike Center early this morning, ready to walk the line. Against a backdrop of three grounded Spirit planes, 21 Spirit pilots and flight attendants, along with pilots from ExpressJet and American, held strike signs while idle Spirit gate agents watched from the terminal windows. Not far to the north, a dozen pilots drew the attention of several media outlets at LaGuardia airport.
“This has not been an easy road for any of us, and an even longer road lies ahead,” said Creed. “Though we cannot tell you how long the road will be, we can tell you how it will end—with a fair and equitable contract for all Spirit pilots.”