United Airlines pilots picket demanding wage increases as airlines threaten strike

Pilots at United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are all demanding management match or beat labor contract adopted by Delta Air Lines earlier this year raising pay by 34% over next four years

United Airlines pilots are picketing at major airports across the nation Friday, demanding higher pay and a better work-life balance in negotiations with management over a new contract.

The pilots say they have been working without a pay increase for more than four years. Their nationwide informational picket comes as Southwest Airlines and American Airlines pilots have each authorized a strike, demanding better conditions from their respective management.

United pilots could go on strike next

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 48.22 +0.03 +0.06%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 27.18 -0.49 -1.77%
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 10.48 -0.21 -1.96%
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 43.60 -0.23 -0.51%

Pilots at all three carriers are looking to match or beat the deal that Delta Air Lines reached with its pilots earlier this year, which raised pay rates by 34% over four years.

SOUTHWEST PILOTS AUTHORIZE A STRIKE WITH A DECISIVE VOTE

United has told its pilots it is willing to match Delta's pay increase, but union officials are looking for more. 

"We expect our contract to raise the bar from Delta's contract," union chief Garth Thompson told Reuters in an interview Wednesday. "We're not just looking for more money, we're looking for several areas of improvement that we've been waiting a long time to achieve."

Scheduling remains a sticking point in negotiations, as the union wants to limit management's power to make pilots work on their days off. 

United spokesman Joshua Freed told The Associated Press, "We’re continuing to work with the Air Line Pilots Association on the industry-leading deal we have put on the table for our world-class pilots."

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES RESUMES OPERATIONS AFTER TECH ISSUES HALT DEPARTURES

United Airlines pilots protest

United Airlines pilots protest for a new contract in downtown Chicago on April 19, 2023. (REUTERS/Caroline Stauffer / Reuters Photos)

Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to go on strike, so even if United pilots join Southwest and American Airlines in authorizing one, it's unlikely that pilots won't show up to work during the busy summer travel season.

The National Mediation Board rarely declares a dead end to bargaining, and even if it does, there is a no-strikes "cooling-off" period during which the White House and Congress can block a walkout. That’s what President Bill Clinton did minutes after pilots began striking against American in 1997 and President Biden did with freight railroad workers in December.

UNITED AIRLINES TO HIRE 15,000 IN PREPARATION FOR BUSY SUMMER

A United Airlines jetliner

A United Airlines jetliner taxis to a runway for takeoff from Denver International Airport on Dec. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File / AP Newsroom)

Pilots’ unions reportedly have more leverage to push for increased pay and changes in scheduling practices, following the shortage of pilots industry-wide that came about as carriers encouraged retirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

United has roughly 14,000 pilots, and the union expected at least 2,000 would picket Friday at 10 airports from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles. The pilots union has distributed protest signs to picketers that read, "Time to invest in pilots" and "4 years past due." 

Fox Business' Ken Martin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.