March 30, 2009 / 7:19 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. pilots union staffers have their own labor beef

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The world’s largest airline pilots union is getting a taste of its own medicine as workers in one in its divisions have filed a complaint of unfair labor practices against their bosses, the workers’ union said on Monday.

It’s an unusual twist in the organized labor movement, pitting a unionized staff against its employer — which itself is a powerful labor union.

The parties in the dispute are the Air Line Pilots Association Professional and Administrative Employees (UALPAPAE) and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which fights for the rights of pilots at UAL Corp’s United Airlines and other carriers.

“When it comes to its pilot members, ALPA is a major champion of the pilots’ rights to fair labor practices,” said Jay Wells, president of United’s unit of UALPAPAE. “But when it comes to the well-being and welfare of its own staff, ALPA management seems to adopt a different set of labor union principles.”

The in-house professional employees’ union, which represents 170 staffers that include lawyers and lobbyists, has complained to the National Labor Relations Board that ALPA management failed to meet its obligation to disclose information requested about ALPA’s plan to lay off 10 professional employees of this year.

ALPA, which represents 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in North America, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the complaint.

ALPA’s contract with its professional employees expires on Tuesday, and the two sides are in talks on a new labor deal.

The ironic complaint is not without precedent. In 2006, the union representing professional employees of ALPA’s Delta Air Lines unit went on strike over a labor contract. That unit’s contract is set to expire April 30.

Reporting by Kyle Peterson, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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