Delta Air Lines pilots voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike on Monday, but travelers don’t need to go changing their tickets just yet.
The pilots have been negotiating a new contract with the carrier since April 2019 and in mediation since February 2020. The negotiations were on pause due to COVID-19 from March 2020 until January 2022. A vote to authorize a strike doesn’t necessarily mean one will happen, but, according to union representatives, it’s an important part of the negotiating process.
“Our pilots have said very clearly that they’re willing to strike to achieve the contract we’ve earned,” said Evan Baach, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and a captain at Delta. “We’re hoping that this strike authorization ballot sends a clear message.”
How soon could Delta Air Lines pilots strike?
Even though a huge majority of Delta’s pilots voted in favor of authorizing a strike, planes aren’t going to be grounded tomorrow – or likely anytime soon.
“Before a strike can take place, the National Mediation Board must first decide that additional mediation efforts would not be productive and offer the parties an opportunity to arbitrate the contract dispute. If either side declines the arbitration, both parties enter a 30-day “cooling off” period, after which pilots and management can engage in self-help – a strike by the union or a lockout by management,” said a statement from ALPA.
Since negotiations are ongoing, there’s no definite timeline for these next steps toward a strike.
“Delta has rebounded from the pandemic and is poised to be stronger than ever, posting record revenues for the third quarter. Meanwhile, our negotiations have dragged on for too long,” Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta Master Executive Council at ALPA said in a statement. “Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike. The ball is in management’s court. It’s time for the Company to get serious at the bargaining table and invest in the Delta pilots.”
What are Delta pilots negotiating for?
According to Baach, Delta’s pilots last ratified a new contract in 2016, and the terms of that agreement only extended until 2019, meaning the aviators have not received a pay increase in about three years.
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“It’s been a very long time since we negotiated our last contract,” Baach said, noting that in the meantime, Delta has provided pay raises for other work groups and invested in foreign airlines.
“It’s time for them to invest in their pilots, they can afford it,” he said.
Delta says: Passengers, don’t worry
The airline is outwardly optimistic that a strike will not occur.
“Delta pilots are not on strike, so this authorization vote will not affect our operation for our customers,” an airline spokesperson said in a statement. “There are many steps remaining in the process and many opportunities left for collaborative negotiations before a strike is even allowed to be considered. Delta and ALPA have made significant progress in our negotiations and have only a few contract sections left to resolve. We are confident that the parties will reach an agreement that is fair and equitable, as we always have in past negotiations.”