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Union Fight Ups Stakes at US Airways

The US Airline Pilots Association has now filed a representation request with the National Mediation Board.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A new union will challenge the Air Line Pilots Association for the right to represent pilots at

US Airways


, likely triggering a bitter battle.

The US Airline Pilots Association said it filed a representation request Tuesday with the National Mediation Board. The group said it has more than 3,000 signature cards, and it expects to take over representation for US Airways pilots during the first quarter.

"Today's filing by USAPA begins the legal process to improve union quality for all US Airways pilots," the organization's president, Stephen Bradford, said in a prepared statement.

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Before a representation election can occur, the National Mediation Board requires signature cards from a majority of eligible members of a bargaining unit. A simple majority is also required to win an election.

The effort to create a new union reflects the deep schism that developed after the 2005 merger of the former US Airways with America West Airlines. The bargaining unit will represent pilots from both carriers, known within the airline as "the east" and "the west."

Under ALPA merger policy, an arbitrator devised a system for seniority integration. Seniority is a key to pilots' careers, determining salary and schedules. Most of the approximately 3,200 pilots from the east strongly oppose the ruling, which generally favors the 1,800 America West pilots. In many cases, pilots at US Airways fall behind their America West counterparts.

Still, there is division within the ranks of the east pilots. "Our best hope for solving our seniority and contractual issues is within ALPA," said Jack Stephan, chairman of the east chapter of ALPA, in a prepared statement. "The answers to the problems facing the pilots whom I represent do not reside with another union."

Polls indicate that ALPA has support from enough east pilots to win the election, said ALPA spokesman Pete Janhunen, since his union will undoubtedly win support from the vast majority of west pilots.

"USAPA has no plan, no funding, and no interest in representing all US Airways pilots," said John McIlvenna, chairman of the west chapter of ALPA, in a prepared statement. "The only guarantee USAPA has is that its brand of proposed representation will result in endless litigation from the America West pilots, a general breakdown in labor relations and the continued pain of two bankruptcy-era contracts."