Frustrated after six years of contract negotiations, the pilots and flight engineers at Evergreen International Airlines (EIA) have scheduled a strike authorization ballot, to begin on December 1, 2010. Their union, the Air line Pilots Association (ALPA), says that they are conducting a strike ballot of the membership "to be prepared for all possible contingencies should negotiations fail."
This past April, ALPA reached a tentative contract agreement (TA) with management, but it was voted down by the crews in August. At that time, ALPA reported that 92% of eligible Evergreen crew members participated in the ratification balloting, and 96% of those voted against accepting the TA.
According to ALPA, Evergreen crew members overwhelmingly turned down the TA in August because it fell substantially short of their goals.
The failed agreement was largely a renewal of the current collective bargaining agreement, which has been in place since 1999. The crew members concluded that the tentative agreement was not acceptable after more than 10 years without improvements in some areas of working conditions, six years without a pay raise, and no per diem increase since the late ’90s. After months of waiting to come back to the negotiating table since the crew members voted down a tentative agreement in August, the MEC is taking the necessary measures to secure a fair contract, including sending the ballot to authorize a strike. The strike ballot will open on December 1 and close January 7. If it passes, it would authorize the EIA MEC to declare a strike once the pilot group is given permission to do so by the National Mediation Board (NMB).William Fink, MEC chairman of the Evergreen ALPA unit, said, “We certainly want a contract, not a strike. That has been our goal since day one more than six years ago — but the new agreement must provide our members with industry-standard wages, work rules, and benefits. We deserve no less. This strike authorization vote will give us the means to take all legal actions to attain the goal of a fair contract.”
The union can ask the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) for arbitration at any time. If the NMB issues a proffer of arbitration, either party can reject it. Should that happen, a 30-day cooling-off period would begin, after which the Evergreen crews would be legally free to call the first-ever pilot strike against the carrier.