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Unhappy Airline Employees: What Is An Informational Picket?

Date: September 17, 2022

By Joe Kunzler, Simple Flying

The informational picket is the return of peaceful, organized protests for US airline labor relations of, off-duty airline employees, from pilots to flight attendants, seeking redress of grievances. From Alaska Airlines’ big April 1 informational picket that shone a bright spotlight on Alaska Airlines’ structural problems just as the airline was suffering through historic cancelations to the Delta Air Lines pilots’ picketing about fatigue, 2022 has become a year of informational picketing by US pilots.

An informational picket is when a union seeks permits from an airport or municipality – again, off-duty – to communicate with the public about workplace issues. There are uniform standards and basic but blunt expectations for participating professionally.

Unions know that informational pickets make for good visuals and direct communication from the union membership – plus allies – directly to the public. The recent Air Line Pilots Association (ALPAnationwide informational picket on September 1st demonstrated this.

For instance, there were four teams of over 25 pilots, each sent to stand in line or march around the southern entryway of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Everybody could carry about their day but got to see the union’s desired visuals for two hours. There were visible expressions of support from pedestrians and drivers alike.

An informational picket is when a union seeks permits from an airport or municipality – again, off-duty – to communicate with the public about workplace issues. There are uniform standards and basic but blunt expectations for participating professionally.

Unions know that informational pickets make for good visuals and direct communication from the union membership – plus allies – directly to the public. The recent Air Line Pilots Association (ALPAnationwide informational picket on September 1st demonstrated this.

For instance, there were four teams of over 25 pilots, each sent to stand in line or march around the southern entryway of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Everybody could carry about their day but got to see the union’s desired visuals for two hours. There were visible expressions of support from pedestrians and drivers alike.

For further clarity, in the words of SWAPA President Casey Murray on The SWAPA Number podcasts, the reason for the Southwest Airlines informational picket on September 21 is,

Doing the pickets is trying to put some pressure as we stand in front of the public and tell them, you know why we are here. … We're there because our senior leaders are there. And we want to tell them that we're not happy with the operation or with our culture.

Murray boldly stated the first picket of Tuesday, June 21, 2022, was to

Let's let the Company see where our pilots are at, what our pilots are demanding. A thousand people showing up … is the first step in that. So hopefully, that will motivate and not only the very top of this company but also labor relations to really let's make some substantive offers.

So yes, it’s an attempt to physically show sheer human interest and individual moral support for the bargaining team. As Alaska Pilots Strategic Planning Committee Chairman Ronan O’Donoghue explained the reasoning of the informational picket on one of the union's insightful podcasts:

Just to show the company how serious we are about needing to get this thing across the line, it is critical for multiple reasons, it is very important that the company see that it is the pilots who are driving this, that the pilots get an opportunity to stand and demonstrate to the company that this is their agenda, this is what they want, they want the section six done, these are the needs that they have that are listed to the negotiating committee.

Ever since the April 1, 2022, informational picket negotiations between Alaska Airlines and its pilots have turned positive. This was no joke, no accident but arguably the result of pilot unity gaining community support.

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