Spirit Pilots’ Strike: Day 3

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of the Spirit pilots on strike

June 14, 2010 - Like a locomotive building up a head of steam, the momentum continues with Spirit pilots.

In Detroit, day after day the number of picketers from Spirit, the AFA, and supporting pilot groups continues to grow: 57 on Thursday, 92 on Friday/Saturday, 97 on Sunday, and today, an astounding 115 picketers at a domicile with only 100 pilots.

Undaunted by restrictive picketing permits that allow only 20 marchers at a time at Detroit Metro’s North Terminal, the resourceful DTW strikers set up two new picket lines outside the airport boundaries on the busy access road that feeds into the airport. There are now three separate picket lines at Detroit, and if the numbers continue to grow, the Spirit organizers may add a fourth line.

Many pilots are showing up with spouses and family members in tow, proudly marching with their young children to teach them the values of respect, unity, and steadfastness. In addition to ALPA marchers from Delta, Colgan, Compass, Eagle, Mesaba, and United, the Detroit strikers were joined today by pilots from the Independent Pilots Association (UPS), non-union Kalitta Air Cargo, and a full crew from American Airlines who left their aircraft to make a few picket circuits before completing an ORD–DTW–ORD turn.

Also today, a room packed with cheering Spirit pilots gave a standing ovation to ALPA pilot Capt. Paul Olechowski, who lost his management job as the airline’s Director of Operations when he and Spirit’s chief pilot both refused to cross the picket line.

Detroit media continues to report heavily on the Spirit pilots’ plight in this labor-friendly town, with three TV stations, the city’s largest news radio station, and the Detroit Free Press showing up at the “Dog Pen” this morning.

Meanwhile, in Fort Lauderdale, storm clouds gathered over the airport but did not deter the more than 160 marchers in the picket line, as more and more join in Spirit pilots’ call for a contract that brings them up to parity with comparable airlines. Joined by pilots from AirTran, AmeriJet, American, Atlas, Comair, Continental, Gulfstream, and United, Spirit pilots—along with an ever growing contingent of Spirit flight attendants—called on management to return to the table. Just across the road, the many tails of Spirit planes were just visible as they sat unmoving. No Spirit plane has left Fort Lauderdale since one took off Friday night at 11:30, right above the picket line, to the waves of the many on the picket line.

“We will be here as long as it takes,” said F/O Travis Wheat, who has walked the line each day and has spent hours volunteering at the strike center. “I am out here to support my union and my profession. If we back down, if we accept less than we deserve, we would fail not only ourselves but those who will come after us.”

In Atlantic City, 24 pilots including representation from North American, Continental, and Republic convened at a nearby convenience store to await their turn to be shuttled to the Atlantic City Int’l Airport and take their turn at picketing. The current picketing permit allows only two picketing pilots on airport property at any given time, so pilots must be transported to and from the airport in pairs. Efforts are being made to increase the allowable limit in time for picketing on Tuesday.

Kathy Gandolfo, a senior reporter from WPVI, the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, interviewed the ACY pilot media spokesperson. The interview focused on the plight of the pilots and their need to have a fair and equitable contract.

Spirit provides approximately 90% of the airline service to and from Atlantic City. Capt. Eric Weiss, Atlantic City SPSC chairman, said, “Without Spirit Airlines serving ACY, we have effectively shut down the airport. Excluding a few AirTran flights and a couple of daily casino charters, nothing else is happening at this airport.”

Negotiations will resume tomorrow. At the request of the National Mediation Board, both sides will convene on June 15 to attempt to reach an agreement. The Spirit MEC and Negotiating Committee will be heading down to Fort Lauderdale to meet with the company. The MEC’s attendance at this negotiation is consistent with its commitment to negotiate at any time, at any place, in order to secure a fair and equitable agreement.