JetBlue pilots vote to join Air Line Pilots Association after turning down earlier union bids

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WASHINGTON – The National Mediation Board said Tuesday that pilots at JetBlue Airways Corp. voted overwhelmingly to unionize, reversing two earlier votes.

The pilots will join the Air Line Pilots Association. Of the 96 per cent of pilots eligible to vote, the association said 71 per cent voted to unionize. JetBlue has more than 2,500 pilots.

Both the airline and the pilot’s union will now organize negotiating committees, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said.

ALPA President Capt. Lee Moak said the organizing campaign succeeded because the pilots wanted a collectively bargained contract and an advocate if their company becomes involved in a merger.

The airline’s pilots had voted down union representation in 2009 and 2011.

On a conference call with reporters, Moak declined to predict how long it would take to negotiate a contract with JetBlue or whether the vote would help unions woo other workers at the New York-based airline.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, billing itself as representing nearly 50,000 pilots and 31 airlines in the United States and Canada.

Shares of JetBlue Airlines Corp. fell 17 cents, or 1.9 per cent, to close at $8.59.

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AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

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