Spirit Pilots, Supporters: Exceeding Expectations
June 15, 2010
At the request of the National Mediation Board, Spirit pilot negotiators and management resumed talks today in Fort Lauderdale in an attempt to reach a deal. The MEC continues to be committed to negotiate at any time and at any place in order to secure a fair and equitable agreement.
The timeline for additional negotiating sessions is not known, and, amazingly, the vagueness hasn’t affected pilots and their families who loyally walked the line. Before heading off to the negotiating session, the Spirit MEC and Negotiating Committee visited the Fort Lauderdale picket line and offered words of support and encouragement to their fellow Spirit pilots and nearly 200 others who joined the line.
Enduring the stifling heat, families, friends, and supporters marched for two hours, waving signs, drawing attention from passing motorists, and sharing in the unity-building experience. Pilots from ALPA carriers—AirTran, Continental, ExpressJet, North American Airlines, PSA, and United—were joined by pilots from American, Amerijet, Miami Air, Southwest Airlines, and US Airways, as the Spirit pilots’ efforts reverberated through the industry.
“Whatever it takes,” said a spouse of a Spirit pilot. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get a fair contract. We are in full support of this strike.”
The son of F/O Ranier Lange was “heartbroken when he wasn’t able to participate in the initial picketing Friday night” when picketing went until 3 a.m. “That was the only time he wasn’t here.”
Other pilots said they have been talking with their families about the potential strike for weeks. “We’ve been doing things to help cut costs at home. Turning off the lights, saving, spending less . . . little things like that in preparation for these days,” said Spirit Capt. Pedro Dove, who has been on the picket line since June 11.
In Detroit, every day has exceeded expectations.
Each day SPC coordinators at the DTW strike center ask themselves the same question: how many guys will we have today? Every morning brings more pilots, flight attendants, and families than the day before. Spirit Strike Day 4 was no exception.
Nearly 140 Spirit pilots and supporters crammed into the ballroom at their strike hotel this morning to learn that negotiations were resuming in Fort Lauderdale. Cheered by that welcome news but determined to show the company that they won’t back down, the Detroit strikers opened a fourth picket line today on busy Merriman Road.
Among the visitors arriving to support the DTW picketers were the chairman and vice chairman of the CommutAir MEC in Cleveland, and two pilots from Frontier Airlines who jumpseated from Denver to Detroit and back—sacrificing a precious day off—because they felt it was the right thing to do.
For Frontier F/O Todd Clark, the need to support the Spirit strikers is obvious: Spirit is setting the pace for the entire industry. Rather than being an isolated strike limited to a few hundred pilots at a small, low-cost carrier, Clark believes what happens here will set the bar for future pilot groups that follow.
“These guys were really ballsy to walk out—this is bravery. How can you not admire that?” Clark said. “They’re toeing the line and it goes beyond union lines or whatever airline you fly for. This affects our whole profession.”
As he looked across the crowded ballroom after picketing, Frontier F/O Dave Kirsch marveled not only at the motivation of all the Spirit pilots and flight attendants standing shoulder to shoulder, but also at all of the familiar faces he saw, including one pilot he remembered from his new-hire class at Mesa.
“It’s amazing how many people I know in here. It’s a small world,” he said.
The continuing question: how many strong, committed union activists can Detroit hold?
On Day 4 of the strike in Atlantic City (ACY), the Spirit pilots received a reprieve from the recent restriction that limited airport picketers to two at a time. The ALPA SPSC secured a new permit with the airport authority, restoring the pre-strike level of up to 30 picketers per event. The pilots responded in force, with dozens offering their time to march across from the main terminal entrance, communicating their demands for a fair and reasonable contract.
Spirit picketers, including ALPA members from Continental and United; pilots from Chautauqua, Flight Options, NetJets, and Southwest; and Spirit flight attendants walked a post from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Numerous news reporters from the television network affiliates and the local newspaper were on site and queried the on-site pilot spokesman, F/O Scott Vallach.
Many of the questions he received focused on management’s final contract proposal in waning hours of strike countdown. According to the MEC press release, the company’s figures were deceptive. “The deal was not as sweet as it initially sounded and, if accepted, would have compelled our pilots to work longer hours and pay more for health care,” Vallach said.
Directly across from the picketers, three Spirit aircraft sat silently as a reminder that operations for the carrier have been indefinitely shut down.