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American Airlines pilots oust union leadership in election

June 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

Pilots at American Airlines, unhappy over pay and angry at company management, ousted their union's top officers and elected a slate of newcomers who promised to take a harder line against the nation's largest carrier.

Miami-based pilot Lloyd Hill defeated incumbent President Ralph Hunter by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 in a runoff. Challengers also unseated the Allied Pilots Assn.'s next two ranking officials.

Hill charged that Hunter and other union leaders were too cozy with company management. Hunter's post was clearly in jeopardy after he got only 25% of the vote during an election in May and barely made the runoff.

The first test for the new officers will come quickly -- the union is in the early stages of negotiations for a new contract in which it expects large raises.

Under Hunter, the pilots union proposed pay raises of 30.5% and big signing bonuses. Hunter also organized protests against $160 million in stock awards given to more than 800 management employees.

Privately, airline officials viewed the protests and pay demands as part of the union leaders' campaign to stay in office by appearing tough. If so, the plan came up short against challengers who took a harder anti-company stance.

Pilots voted by mail, with ballots due Wednesday. The votes were counted at union headquarters in Fort Worth.

Hill got 4,573 votes, or 68%, to Hunter's 2,180. Dallas-based pilot Tom Westbrook defeated Vice President Sam Bertling by an even larger margin, and San Francisco-based pilot Bill Haug defeated incumbent Secretary-Treasurer Jim Eaton.

The union represents more than 9,000 pilots at American.

Neither Hill nor Hunter returned messages for comment after the election results were released Wednesday night.

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