[JURIST] Officials for United Airlines [corporate website] filed a lawsuit [press release] Wednesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking to ban pilots' union Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) [official website] and four pilots from causing flight cancellations. The suit alleges that ALPA and the pilots have organized sick-leave abuse movements in protest to United plans [press release] to reduce the size of its fleet and lay off employees in response to increasing fuel prices. The movements have reportedly contributed to a summer increase of as much as 103 percent in first-officer sick leave time, and United asked the court for an injunction against such actions. United executive vice president Pete McDonald commented:
It is absolutely irresponsible for ALPA to promote unlawful behavior, particularly in this environment, when the industry is taking unprecedented actions to offset record fuel costs. Our employees are working hard to make our company successful. We are going to ensure the integrity of our operation and will not allow the actions of ALPA and certain pilots to continue to harm our customers, our employees and our company.
ALPA officials responded [press release] that they are reviewing the suit but that the United press release includes "inaccurate and alarmingly misleading information." The Chicago Tribune has more.
The federal government has recently been exploring ways to stop rising fuel prices. Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush issued a memorandum [presidential statement; JURIST report] lifting an executive ban on offshore oil drilling [JURIST news archive]. Last month, Bush called on Congress to relax restrictions on oil exploration [statement text; JURIST report], saying that it should also allow drilling to begin in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website] in Alaska. Bush argued that resources currently off-limits to energy companies could offset rising fuel prices. Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] in the Arctic, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require several years and a massive infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.