Spirit Airlines Flight Dispatchers Vote to Switch Unions

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

Flight dispatchers at Spirit Airlines voted 45-0 for union representation by the Professional Airline Flight Control Association.

The dispatchers’ current collective bargaining agreement is between Spirit and Local 540 of the Transport Workers Union, an AFL-CIO affiliate. That agreement will be amendable in August, according to a report filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Spirit employees may have been motivated by the opportunity to be represented by a union that focuses exclusively on representing dispatchers, Art Wheaton, a faculty member at Cornell University’s Worker Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., told Bloomberg Law Feb. 21.

“The new union may be seen as more specialized and professional” by the dispatchers than the TWU, which represents a wide variety of transit workers, Wheaton said.

“Some of your issues may not be heard as much” in a larger, broader union, he said.

The upside of being represented by a large union, however, is the pressure it can exert at the bargaining table if it represents the lion’s share of a given employer’s workforce, Wheaton said.

Spirit Airlines, PAFCA, and the TWU didn’t provide comment Feb. 21 on the representation vote in response to requests from Bloomberg Law.

Pilots, Flight Attendants

Fifty-three people were eligible to vote in the union representation election for the dispatchers, according to a Feb. 20 certification of the results from the National Mediation Board.

PAFCA already represents about 420 flight dispatchers at United Airlines and roughly 415 dispatchers at Delta Airlines. The union isn’t affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Spirit Airlines’ 1,800 pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association. Its 3,000 flight attendants are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants. These unions, like PAFCA, provide specialized representation rather than representing a wide variety of workers.

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