ST. PAUL, Minn. - Sun Country Airlines pilots set up an informational picket line at the Humphrey Terminal on Wednesday.
The Air Line Pilots Association unit obtained a permit from the Metropolitan Airports Commission for the picketing for two hours, from 12 to 2 p.m.
"We have been in contract negotiations for over 2 ½ years," explained Captain Jake Yockers, ALPA Spokesperson for the Sun Country Unit. "We're unhappy with the pace of negotiations and we just want to bring some attention that we are in negotiations."
No flights were affected by the picketing. Yockers said the main issue is wages.
"We are paid less than the other pilots. We are some of the lowest paid in the industry that, nationally, fly this aircraft, the 737s," said Yockers. "The company has had some tough times in the past. We have been there for them ... Things are going better now and we do not want to be at the top, but we are down in the basement and we just want to be moving up the scale a little bit there."
Yockers said Sun Country pilots are paid about 50 less than pilots at Southwest Airlines. Pilot pay at Sun Country ranges from $28,000 for new hires to $113,000 for experienced pilots.
Sun Country Airlines did not respond to calls for comment on this story.
The picket lines at Sun Country added to the recent Chicago Teachers Strike and lockouts of employees by American Crystal Sugar Company and the National Hockey League are evidence of a possible resurgence in the organized labor movement, according to a Twin Cities labor historian.
"Workers feel a profound sense of injustice about their hard work not giving them economic security and a better chance for the future for themselves and their families," said Peter Rachleff, Ph.D, of Macalester College in Saint Paul. "We are starting to see this interesting fight back on the part of unions and organized workers."
Rachleff said a serious decline in the American Union Movement can be traced to the 1981 Air Traffic Controllers Strike, in which President Ronald Reagan backed down the union and replaced the controllers. Since then, he blamed families depending on credit for living expenses and the financial crisis of 2007 for increasing worker unrest.
"They lost their mortgages, lost their homes, many lost their jobs, lost their hope for the future," said Rachleff. "Then we get the kind of overt attack on organized labor that we saw starting in 2010 in Wisconsin with Gov. (Scott) Walker's so-called 'Budget Repair Bill.'"
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