United Airlines pilots are set to vote on holding a strike as negotiations for better pay and working conditions have moved slowly.
The pilots union voted unanimously to authorize a strike vote, Unite Master Executive Council Char Capt. Garth Thompson announced in a letter sent to members Friday.
"You'll receive more communication regarding this impending strike vote in the coming days," the letter says, per Reuters. A spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said it has not yet set a date for the strike vote.
The strike vote comes weeks after United AIrlines pilots picketed major airports across the nation, demanding pay increases. Unions representing Southwest Airlines and American Airlines pilots have each authorized a strike this summer, demanding better conditions from their respective management.
Pilots at all three carriers are looking to match or beat the deal that Delta Air Lines reached with its pilots earlier this year, which raised pay rates by 34% over four years.
"We have offered our pilots an industry leading deal and we're actively working with ALPA to reach an agreement," a United Airlines spokesperson told Reuters, adding that United flights will continue to operate as planned as the negotiation process continues.
Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to go on strike, so even if United pilots join Southwest and American Airlines in authorizing one, it's unlikely that pilots won't show up to work during the busy summer travel season.
The National Mediation Board rarely declares a dead end to bargaining, and even if it does, there is a no-strikes "cooling-off" period during which the White House and Congress can block a walkout. That’s what President Bill Clinton did minutes after pilots began striking against American in 1997 and President Biden did with freight railroad workers in December.
Authorizing a strike is more of a bargaining tactic pilots unions can use as leverage for better contracts.
United's contract came up for renewal in 2019 and negotiations have been underway for five years. Last year, its pilots overwhelmingly voted against a tentative contract, which the union said fell short of what members were seeking. Since then, United pilots have been protesting for a better deal.
"United management faces a decision whether to press ahead, disregarding the sacrifices and contributions made by our pilot group, or add our UPA to the long list of other investments related to "United Next" strategy. In other words, they can continue to struggle with unfilled Captain vacancies, and become increasingly uncompetitive in the pilot hiring marketplace, or they can re-earn a valuable ally that can help United realize ambitious growth goals," Thompson wrote.
"Time passes by while the management's need for our partnership becomes more urgent."
Fox Business' Ken Martin and Reuters contributed to this report.