Hundreds of professional pilots voted overwhelmingly to cut ties with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
On Wednesday, pilots with the private plane company Flexjet voted to decertify Teamsters Local 1108, a decision the company hailed as historic. Chairman Kenn Ricci said no other professional pilots have successfully severed representation with organized labor before. He thanked employees for siding with company management, which publicly supported the decertification effort, over labor leaders.
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"This is a historic moment not only for our company but also for the industry as a whole, since no other pilot group has elected to remove representation by organized labor," Ricci said in a statement. "While this underscores the dissatisfaction our pilots felt with the union, it is more importantly a testament to the trust our pilots have in this Company and our leadership team, and a rejection of the tactics of fear and intimidation that the Teamsters used during this vote."
More than two-thirds of pilots voted against maintaining ties to the unions. The vote followed a 28-day election period that saw nearly unanimous participation from workers. Of the 551 eligible voters, 541 cast ballots; 318 voted against the union while 220 wanted to maintain exclusive representation with the Teamsters. Local 1108 has accused the company and broader airline industry of union busting and "stealing our rights."
"The contractual protections and benefits we enjoy today, and the right to negotiate improvements as a unified group, will vanish within one second of the vote's certification with no guarantee that the damage can ever be undone," the union said on its website. "No pilot group should give up their greatest leverage."
Local 1108, which did not return request for comment, took a more conciliatory stance following the results thanking "all pilots who voted for representation. And we thank all of our volunteers and the other labor organizations, especially our IBT Airline Division, for the support we received."
Ricci said eliminating union representation will allow workers to deal directly with the company on employment matters. The company said it plans to hire 100 new workers in the wake of the vote and plans to implement pay and benefit hikes on June 1.
"The decertification vote will free Flexjet to improve compensation and benefits without obstruction from an adversarial third party, which will contribute to retaining its existing pilots," the company said in a release. "Flexjet can now be more flexible in offering attractive and competitive packages to lure new pilots. In the past, the union has opposed efforts to improve compensation unless it received credit for doing so."
The union has faced declining numbers since the turn of the century. Membership fell from 551 in 2016 to 309 members in 2017, a steep drop from its 2006 peak of 3,041 members, according federal labor filings. Pilots paid 1.56 percent of their gross wages in dues to the union, forking over more than $670,000 in 2017, a severe drop from the $2.7 million workers paid in 2006. The union spent $330,722 in representational activities in 2017, while budgeting $280,000 to cover overhead and union administration costs.