Pilots with SeaTac-based Horizon Air filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that their employer violated labor laws.
The pilots say in the suit that Horizon executives violated the terms of their labor contract by offering new employees recruitment bonuses that had not been negotiated.
Unilaterally changing pay without a vote of union members is a violation of the Railway Labor Act, essentially circumventing the contract negotiation process, said Greg Unterseher, director of representation with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters 1224.
The lawsuit, filed with Western Washington District Court, asks the judge to return pay to the status quo. The union wants to negotiate better pay and working conditions for all Horizon pilots, Unterseher said.
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Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group, which includes Alaska Airlines.
Horizon Air pilots, who belong to Teamsters Local 1224, say Alaska Air Group canceled 720 of the regional carrier’s flights in December 2016, partly because of weather and maintenance issues.
However, some of the flights were canceled due to a pilot shortage, Unterseher said in a phone interview.
Alaska then flew those routes with larger planes, which cost more money to fly, a union news release states.
New pilots were being paid a hiring bonus prior to signing on for their first day of work, Unterseher said. He called the move “gimmicky” and said a judge would rule in their favor.
A Sept. 2016 survey of pilots showed 80 percent were in favor of a strike vote, the news release said.
In an emailed statement, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Ann Zaninovich said the company does not anticipate disruptions in service.
“Horizon Air will continue to work toward a solution that is attractive to new pilots, while respecting the contributions of existing pilots and the competitive regional airline marketplace. We do not anticipate any disruption in service,” she wrote in part. She did not respond to further questions.
Horizon Air formed in 1981, after larger airlines abandoned routes in the Northwest, according to Alaska Airlines. Horizon flies routes along the West Coast and employs around 675 pilots.