Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 14, 2008, 11:12 am
JetBlue Pilots Move To Form Union
Posted by Matt Phillips

On Thursday, JetBlue filed for U.S. regulatory approval to form the low-cost airline’s first labor union, a move that pilots say will position them to cope with future management that may be less friendly to labor, Dow Jones Newswires reports.

“We have complete faith in our current company leadership and believe that this will be a cooperative effort,” Michael Sorbie, the pilots’ spokesman, said in a letter to the National Mediation Board, the agency that oversees airline labor issues. Sorbie added that “as our airline matures, we want to ensure that the career expectations of our pilots will remain intact regardless of organizational changes.”
The letter was posted on the pilot group’s Web site.

JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin said Thursday that “we have been advised that it is JBPA’s intention to file a petition for election, but have not yet been notified by the National Mediation Board. We believe direct relationship with the company is in our pilots’ best interest.”

The pilots group has asked to be an independent negotiator for JetBlue pilots, rather than join an existing union. A spokesperson for the pilots couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Once the request is approved, pilots can vote on union representation.

The New York carrier was founded in 2000 as a non-union airline, a rarity in an industry where union organizing - particularly for pilots - has been the standard. David Neeleman, the innovative entrepreneur who started JetBlue, referred to all employees as “crew members”. The airline strove to foster a work-friendly atmosphere that circumvented typical labor-management confrontations.

The airline flourished in its early years, offering low ticket prices and good service. It grew as much as 30% a year, and became a Wall Street favorite, making a profit even as major U.S. airlines lost money and struggled to streamline their organizations during a long industry downturn.

JetBlue now is the major carrier at its New York hub at JFK International Airport, employing more than 9,000 workers.

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