The board of the Allied Pilots Association agreed on Monday to send a strike vote to members.
The move comes just days after a bankruptcy judge rejected American Airlines' contract with pilots and allowed the company to impose cuts.
"We've got 8,000 pilots who are not going to stand idly by while the corporation dismantles and destroys their profession, and this strike ballot is a shot across the bow of the corporation to let them know that," said First Officer Tom Hoban, spokesman for Allied Pilots Association.
American said the motion is a diversionary tactic.
“The APA’s own general counsel reminded the union in a memorandum to its national officers and board of directors posted Saturday that any job action would be unlawful," according to a written statement by American spokesman Bruce Hicks. "So, it’s obvious this announcement is simply a diversionary tactic."
Hicks said American is committed to implementing cuts that are necessary for its successful restructuring.
"We assured the APA and our pilots on Friday that the vast majority of working conditions will not change from the pilot contract previously in place with the exception of specific changes found by the Court to be necessary for American to reorganize," Hicks said. "At the same time, we remain committed to bargaining in good faith with APA."
Federal law places restrictions on when pilots can strike and it's widely believed there's no way pilots can walk off the job during the bankruptcy process.
Six years ago, when Northwest Airlines flight attendants tried to strike during bankruptcy, a federal appeals court stopped them. The court said as long as the company followed the rules of the process the union couldn't end run the process by striking. American's pilots argue they see some grey area in that ruling.