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Pilots at Delta Air Lines voted Monday to authorize a future strike if the union and airline can’t come to an agreement on the contract.

Of the 15,000 pilots, 96% were eligible to vote and 99% of those eligible pilots approved the future strike authorization, according to information from the Air Line Pilots Association.

Delta pilots are working under the terms of a contract negotiated in 2016. That contract became amendable in December 2019. Mediated talks between the two parties, paused by the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed in January 2022.

For a strike to move forward, the National Mediation Board would have to move talks to the arbitration stage. If either party declines the arbitration, then a strike or lockout can proceed after a 30-day cool-off period.

“Delta’s nearly 15,000 pilots sent a clear message to management that we are willing to go the distance to secure a contract that reflects the value we bring to Delta Air Lines. … Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike. The ball is in management’s court,” Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta Master Executive Council, said in the statement from the Air Line Pilots Association.

The airline said the union’s goal is to gain leverage, and the vote in and of itself will not affect operations, CNBC reported.

“We are confident that the parties will reach an agreement that is fair and equitable, as we always have in past negotiations,” the air carrier said in a statement, according to CNBC.

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