A union representing hundreds of pilots at a private airline company hit back Tuesday against a campaign that is seeking to decertify it.
Flexjet and Flight Options are private jet services with several hundred pilots between them. OneSky Flight merged the two companies in 2013. The Teamsters Local 1108 was able to successfully unionize pilots from the two carriers together during a union election a couple of years later.
OneSky Crew Lounge represents unionized pilots who are pushing for the decertification vote. The group filed the application for an election Tuesday. The Teamsters Local 1108 questions the legitimacy of the campaign, arguing that it is being pushed by company management.
“If successful, this effort would mean that all Flexjet/Flight Options pilots would go back to being ‘at-will’ employees, without a contract or even the power to bargain collectively to obtain one,” Local 1108 said in a statement provided to InsideSources. “This would make the Flexjet/Flight Options pilots part of the small minority, since the pilots at Netjets, which is Flexjet/Flight Options’s main competitor, every major carrier and most regional carriers are represented by unions.”
OneSky Crew Lounge argues that it has 50 percent support as required under the Railway Labor Act. The majority of employees first have to sign authorization cards for a “straw man” to represent them. Pilot Frank Woelke, the straw man in the campaign, will act as a rival to the union during the election process.
The Teamsters Local 1108 represents roughly 600 pilots who work for the two private carriers. The union argues that out of the three individuals who filed the decertification petition, only one is a pilot who actually works for one of the companies. The union believes pilots might have been coerced into supporting the election.
“The decertification petition filed by these individuals has been sponsored and encouraged by company management, which has preferred confrontation and litigation against its pilots instead of negotiating with them in good faith,” Local 1108 said. “The line pilots who are the officers of Local 1108 are aware that many of their fellow pilots may have been misled, pressured or coerced by management into signing election authorization cards.”
The Teamsters Local 1108 adds that it is confident the pilots will vote to continue to be represented with the privacy they’ll have during the secret balloting process. OneSky Crew Lounge counters that it is clear that the pilots don’t want union representation anymore given that the majority of them have signed cards.
“Management had absolutely nothing to do with the secret drive,” OneSky Crew Lounge responded in a statement provided to InsideSources. “We received more cards requesting a vote than the IBT Local 1108 had total members in 2017. This isn’t a vote of confidence in the members of the straw man decertification drive or management, it’s a vote of no confidence in the failed IBT 1108 that has disappointed and disenfranchised the very pilots they claim to represent.”
The Teamsters Local 1108 has also challenged the companies for not bargaining in good faith. Management informed the union last year that it would not be implementing an agreement formed during an arbitration process despite pressure from a federal judge to negotiate a contract for the merged carriers.
The National Mediation Board will first have to determine whether the requirements were met before going forward with an election. The pilots will then be allowed to vote on whether they want to scrap their union if a vote is approved. They will have the option to keep the union, write-in an alternative union, or have no union.
“We respect the rights of our Flexjet and Flight Options pilots to have a voice in their future by submitting an application to the National Mediation Board (NMB) to terminate their representation by the Teamsters Local 1108,” Flexjet said in a statement provided to InsideSources. “The simple fact is a majority of our pilots came to this decision independently.”
Flexjet adds that it intends to fully cooperate with federal officials as they review the application and govern the election process. The company also notes that it is confident the process leading to the vote will not interfere with its operations.
The election will ultimately determine whether pilots want to keep their union if it gets approved by federal officials. OneSky Crew Lounge is asking the company to discontinue any and all negotiations with the union until the vote has been held.