JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) pilots voted for the second time against joining a union, maintaining the company’s status as the biggest U.S. airline without organized labor groups.
Fifty-eight percent of the votes were cast against union representation, and 41 percent were in favor, Mateo Lleras, a JetBlue spokesman, said in an e-mail. The union needed a majority of 2,050 valid votes to prevail under a 2010 federal rule change. Previously, unions had to win a majority of all potential members, with abstentions counted as “no” votes.
The lack of union costs has helped JetBlue keep expenses lower than some competitors during the 11 years since it began flying. The airline doesn’t have to cope with contract restrictions on schedules and pay or possible work slowdowns and strikes if it can’t reach an agreement with a union.
Chief Executive Officer David Barger thanked the pilots in a statement after the vote for choosing “to retain and expand their direct relationship with the company.”
In previous efforts to unionize, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers fell short of votes needed in 2006 to represent baggage handlers, and pilots cast insufficient votes to create an independent bargaining unit in 2009.
The Air Line Pilots Association asked the National Mediation Board June 2 to authorize the most recent election “on behalf of a strong majority of JetBlue pilots,” according to a letter to JetBlue’s Barger from Lee Moak, president of the association. Voting began July 26 and ended today.
The airline, whose largest shareholder is Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA), fell 5 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $4.41 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have fallen 33 percent this year.
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