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UPS Pilots' Union Calls For Strike Vote

UPS plane
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Union leaders representing UPS pilots are calling for a strike vote as negotiations with the company over a new contract remain stalled.

The Independent Pilots Association represents 2,600 UPS pilots — roughly 1,700 of whom are based in Louisville. The pilots’ current contract expired at the end of 2011. Under federal law, the terms of the previous contract remain in effect until a new contract is approved.

The two sides have been in talks for four years and have been unable to come to an agreement on a variety of issues, including compensation, pilot and crew scheduling, and health care and pension benefits.

The union took out a full-page ad in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal calling for the vote. Spokesman Brian Gaudet said a vote to strike would change the dynamic of the negotiations.

“Strike votes, whether it’s our pilot union or any pilot union, are generally a pretty strong indicator that the tone and tenor is changing," he said.

Last year, negotiations were moved to the National Mediation Board. If the pilots vote to strike, the board would have to release the union from that mediation agreement for a strike to actually occur. After that, Congress and the Obama administration could also choose to intervene, according to a UPS official.

The UPS pilots' union has never formally asked to be released from mediation and conducted a strike, Gaudet said.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said the company is confident the two sides can avoid a strike.

“UPS continues to negotiate in good faith for a contract that is good for our employees, our customers and the company itself," he said.

The union will announce the results of the vote Oct. 23.

Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.