An overwhelming 99 percent of participating Alaska Airlines pilots voted to authorize a strike if a new employment contact cannot be reached and the National Mediation Board permits such an action, the Air Line Pilots Association, which is representing the Alaska pilots, announced Wednesday. About 96 percent of members participated in the vote.

The decision comes nearly two months after about 1,500 off-duty pilots and their supporters began informal picketing at various Alaska Airlines base locations, according to ALPA. On April 1, the carrier began cancellations due to a pilot shortage.

Alaska and the pilots union began talks in summer 2019, with an agreed-upon pause during the peak of the pandemic from March 2020 to March 2021. The airline in October 2021 filed for mediation with the NMB.

“For three years, Alaska pilots have been resolved in their commitment to reach a new agreement and today, we spoke with one unified voice, just like we did with our recent informational picketing event,” chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA master executive council Will McQuillen said in a statement. “For years, we have been working toward a market-based contract with reasonable solutions that address work rules, scheduling flexibility and career-security issues that pilots at other companies enjoy, not a strike. Now is the time for management to respond and engage constructively at the bargaining table.”

Before a strike can be called, the NMB first must decide that additional mediation efforts would not work and offer the parties an opportunity to arbitrate the contract dispute, according to ALPA. If either side declines the arbitration, both parties enter a 30-day “cooling off” period, after which pilots and management can engage in self-help—a strike by the union or a lockout by management.

Alaska noted in a statement on its website that “Alaska Airlines pilots are not on strike. Our guests and operation are not impacted by this vote. We remain committed to reaching a deal to provide an updated contract that is good for Alaska’s pilots.”

RELATED: Alaska Airlines Cancellations Continue as Pilots Picket

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