Allegiant pilots vote to unionize


Pilots at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co. have voted to join a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, according to results released Thursday by the National Mediation Board.

The union drive, which took root last year, resulted in a 185-139 vote in favor of accepting Teamsters's Local 1224 in Wilmington, Ohio, the Airline Professionals Association, as their bargaining agent. The company's Allegiant Air unit has 350 pilots, a group that has been growing in tandem with its schedule and the fleet.

However, negotiating and ratifying a contract will likely take at least a year and possibly much longer. In December 2010, Allegiant's flight attendants voted to join the Transport Workers Union. At this point, six of the 29 articles in a collective bargaining agreement remain under negotiation, according to an Allegiant spokesman. Once completed, the flight attendants will vote on the package.

Until now, pilots have dealt with management through an in-house association. An organizing drive two years ago by the Airline Pilots Association failed, but some Allegiant pilots then sought alternatives that involved internal polling about which union stood the best chance of winning, according to a statement by Teamster organizer Traey Liggett.

A Teamster announcement said the pilots sought changes in work rules, scheduling, pension and health benefits.

In a statement, Allegiant CEO Maurice Gallagher Jr. pledged to "work with the (Teamsters) to the best interests of both our employees and the company."

As recently as two years ago, Allegiant was a rare nonunion airline, which management promoted as giving it a competitive advantage in both costs and operational flexibility.

In a February 2011 conference call with securities analysts, Gallagher said, "In this industry and others that are heavily unionized, you ultimately end up with bankruptcy as the primary driver. ... Unionization is one of those things that clogs the arteries and makes you less quick and not a nimble as you need to be on top of your game."

Now, half of the 1,450 full-time employees as of Feb. 1 will be represented by unions. One small department, the dispatchers, rejected a union in January 2011 on a 6-6 vote.

Allegiant stock dropped 97 cents Thursday to close at $66.90, although much of the decline happened before the election announcement.

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

 

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