American Airlines pilots who want to replace their single-airline union with the Air Line Pilots Association say they have enough votes to do it.

The group, called AA Pilots for ALPA, says it had collected 8,219 cards, more than half of the approximately 16,000 American pilots, and enough to call for a vote.

American pilots are currently represented by the Allied Pilots Association. ALPA is the world’s largest pilots’ union, representing more than 77,000 pilots at 41 U.S. and Canadian airlines. It maintains a strong Washington D.C. presence and plays a key role in shaping aviation legislation.

Members of AA Pilots for ALPA were in airports Wednesday, collecting even more signatures. “We need a responsible margin above the minimum of 50% plus one before submitting to the National Mediation Board,” a spokesman for the group said in an email. So far, no leaders have been publicly named.

“We also desire the strongest majority possibly to send a unity message from the AA pilot group,” the spokesman said. “Cards are still easy to collect, with advocates reporting a 70% plus success rate collecting cards in terminals from pilots.”

AA Pilots for ALPA emerged in 2022, seeking to have the APA board of directors form a committee to review whether to merge. The board vote on the topic was 10-10. A decision to pursue or investigate a merger requires a two thirds majority, according to APA’s constitution.

The next step was to begin the card drive. While it has apparently gone well, the full extent of support for switching unions is not entirely clear.

In April, the number of pilots who voted in an election for the new chairman of the DFW base, the largest American pilot base, was relatively small. The new chairman, Brian Smith, has been an advocate for ALPA. He won 812 votes, while his opponent won 804 votes. Of the 4,167 pilots eligible to vote, 1,612 or 37% cast ballots.

In the email exchange, the AA Pilots For ALPA spokesman said it is important to have a union election before the next time pilots consider a new contract. “Until there is a vote, whoever represents our pilots will not have a clear mandate from their membership to credibly speak for them,” he said. The current contract becomes 2027, with early opening set for November 2026.

Asked “Are you going to try to get APA board to reconsider, or will you go straight to election,” the spokesman responded: “Our organization has been on record since early 2022 that a merger between APA and ALPA is preferred. As the decision-making body of our union, the APA board of directors is free to open merger negotiations with ALPA at any time.

“However, our supporters desire a vote and are apprehensive that APA will engage ALPA in merger discussions in a timely manner,” he said. “Many have indicated a lack of trust that APA will meaningfully engage in merger negotiations with ALPA based upon the APA board of director’s actions following a unanimous recommendation to do so by the APA-ALPA Merger Exploratory Committee in June of 2023.”

Asked whether it is good to have two major pilot unions, the spokesman said, “Our view is that our profession is stronger together and that the AA pilots’ voices are missing from many major conversations in the industry right now. While there are some areas where APA may hit above its weight class, our pilots do not have a seat at the table for critical issues that affect our careers where ALPA has significantly more influence.”

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