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Former pilot union president sues over vacation time

The former president of the Charlotte-based union that represents US Airways pilots filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the union, claiming he was unfairly cheated out of payment for almost 100 unused vacation days he accrued.

Michael Cleary, a pilot, headed the U.S. Airline Pilots Association from 2008 to 2012. He was a fierce opponent of US Airways and led a high-profile “safety campaign” in 2011 that the company claimed was in fact a secret work slowdown.

The union charged that US Airways was skirting safety requirements, but a federal judge in Charlotte sided with the company and issued an injunction ordering pilots to stop the slowdown.

In his lawsuit, Cleary claimed he worked seven days a week for the union for most of his four-year term and took only seven paid days off during that time. He worked on those seven days he took off as well, Cleary said.

“Mike routinely worked seven days a week. He had no choice because there was work to be done and, in the beginning, few employees to do it,” wrote Cleary’s attorney, Josh Van Kampen. “Weekends off were nonexistent, and Mike had virtually no chance to use the vacation he was accruing.”

A spokesman for USAPA said the union hadn’t received a copy of Cleary’s lawsuit Tuesday and had no comment.

When Cleary left USAPA in 2012, he said in his lawsuit that he was paid for only 21 days of vacation time, not the nearly 100 days he had accrued. According to the lawsuit, the union’s treasurer had assured Cleary that he would receive payment for all of his accrued vacation time.

Although Cleary was a pilot for US Airways at the same time he served as USAPA’s president, he only flew the bare minimum necessary to maintain certification. The union paid Cleary all of his wages and benefits, according to the lawsuit. Van Kampen declined to say exactly how much money Cleary is seeking from USAPA.

The union is in the early stages of integrating with the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, after that company’s merger with US Airways in December. For years, USAPA has been bitterly divided over pilot seniority stemming from the 2005 merger of America West and US Airways.

Integrating the pilot work groups seamlessly is seen as an important step for the American-US Airways merger to succeed.

Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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