Final Hours of Spirit Pilots’ Strike – Day 5
June 16, 2010 - Before the rumors of a potential TA started to swarm, determined Spirit pilots and their loyal supporters were still there to walk the picket lines in Atlantic City, Detroit, and Fort Lauderdale.
In Atlantic City and Detroit, the picketing came earlier in the day, and the number of participants continued to reflect a strong show of support.
The Spirit pilots once again fielded a capacity crowd for Wednesday’s picketing effort at the Atlantic City International Airport (ACY). Spirit pilots, fellow ALPA members from Air Transport International, ExpressJet, and United, and Spirit flight attendants marched with signs across from the main terminal, where a large group of passengers leaving the airport took a long glimpse of the circling picketers before boarding their charter buses.
Aside from the occasional gambling charters and the handful of daily AirTran flights, ACY had become a veritable ghost town, with the schedule monitors in the terminal listing one canceled flight after another. However, that the lack of business did not deter the dozens and dozens of volunteers who continued to show up each day to walk the line.
Capt. Kevin Schmitke, a 20-year Spirit veteran, arrived on the picket line with a mascot for today’s effort—Hannah, a large black Newfoundland. The two had volunteered at an area rehabilitation center in the morning, and rather than take the dog back to his home in South Jersey, Schmitke brought her out on the line. The SPSC confirmed that her presence did not count toward the picket-line maximum.
The small local base of ACY pilots have repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the overwhelming support they’ve received from fellow ALPA members, non-ALPA pilots, Spirit flight attendants, and the many other well-wishers.
A day that began with trepidation ended in exultation in Detroit due to the confirmation of the tentative agreement. More than 100 pilots from Spirit, American, Delta, Mesaba, Pinnacle, and Colgan and a Teamster pilot from Chautauqua Airlines were joined by flight attendants from Spirit, Mesaba, and Delta as well as spouses and other supporters.
Flight attendants were out in force Wednesday following the news that Spirit management had furloughed the entire group, a flagrant violation of their contract.
But rather than feeling the intimidation that company had hoped for, the furloughs only bolstered their resolve, which has held steady over the past week.
“The only statement we’re making is that we’re supporting the pilots 100 percent,” said DTW AFA Local Council President Debra Crowley. Then Crowley left the strike hotel to walk the Detroit Metro “Dog Pen” with Delta Council 94 AFA President Diana Mitcham, who represents 2,000 flight attendants at the former Northwest domicile.
Another Delta crewmember and former Spirit pilot, Capt. Paul Kurtz, had been awake for almost 24 hours after completing a Hawaii flight when he picketed with the Detroit strikers.
“This was important to me because in all my 21 years of flying, I have never picketed before,” said Kurtz, who has flown for USAir, Spirit, Northwest, and now Delta.
After yet another strong bout of picketing on a beautifully breezy summer day, pilots and flight attendants returned to the hotel for food and conversation.. Soon after they left for the afternoon, rumors began to trickle in to the strike center of a tentative deal. As the rumors became reality late in the day, individual pilots visited the strike center to congratulate the DTW SPC team and thank them for their hard work.
DTW SPC coordinator F/O Mark Bailey’s regular mantra when giving telephone updates to ALPA and the SPSC all this week was, “Don’t worry about Detroit—Detroit’s taken care of.” He was right. Just like Fort Lauderdale, Atlantic City, and La Guardia, backed up by dozens of ALPA staffers across the nation and pilots from virtually every ALPA carrier, Detroit got the job done for Spirit and the piloting profession—and then some.
Following an anxiously awaited announcement that a Tentative Agreement on a new contract had been achieved, and despite the blistering heat and sky-high humidity, nearly 200 Spirit pilots, family members, and supporters turned out for picketing in Fort Lauderdale today.
There were smiles for miles as the pilots and their supporters walked the line—for what could be the last time. Word came out shortly before the pilots assembled for a 4 p.m. briefing that ALPA and Spirit management had approved a tentative agreement.
Pilot representatives from American Airlines,
Capital Cargo International, Continental Airlines, ExpressJet, Gulfstream,
JetBlue, Piedmont, Pinnacle, Skyway International, United, UPS, and US Airways
were all on hand to help celebrate the hard-fought victory with the Spirit