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Virgin America pilots vote by wide margin to join union

Pilots for Virgin America have voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association, a victory for unions in the heavily organized airline industry.

The union said late Thursday that it captured 75 percent of the vote among pilots who cast ballots. Virgin America has about 600 pilots, and 96 percent of those eligible voted.

Organizers said they will now focus on negotiating their first collective-bargaining agreement with the Burlingame, California-based airline. The union represents 51,000 pilots at 30 airlines in the United States and Canada.

In a statement from a spokeswoman, the company said Friday that the organizing campaign was not a surprise because Virgin America was the last major U.S. airline with nonunion pilots. The airline is partly owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and began flying in 2007. Last November, it sold stock to the public for the first time.

In morning trading Friday, the shares were down 18 cents to $28.70. They began the day down 40 percent in 2015, compared with a 2 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

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