Stronger Moving Forward
The fundamental principle of this simple phrase is enormous.
Not only does it capture the positive momentum
of the many successes achieved by the Air Line Pilots
Association, International, but it also acknowledges the struggles
we have endured as a unified profession.
And as we approach another important Board of Directors
meeting themed with that exact phrase—Stronger Moving
Forward—it is an accurate description of our strengths and
our challenges. It underscores the responsibility of this union’s
leaders to analyze, reassess, and prioritize the goals of your
union, the Air Line Pilots Association, International.
Have our struggles and challenges paved the way for overall
success? Some will question our definition of success. Do bankruptcies,
weak contracts, obstinate management, and partial
wins spell 100 percent success? Of course not—the losses
continue to sting today, but they don’t negate the successes we
have seen in the recent past, and those we see today.
For the larger jet airlines, this is clearly the best bargaining
environment we have seen since 9/11. The industry is making
record profits, paying off debt, improving its balance sheets,
and starting to show the stability of investment-grade companies
(see “The Continued Evolution of the Airline Industry,”
page 25). Further helping our cause is the narrowing of contractual
differences among the largest airlines. American/US
Airways’ rates will rise thanks to a pay-adjustment clause in
the pilots’ contract that enables them to piggyback the gains
we made at Delta and United.
Does this mean pilots won’t be looking for improvements
in the next round of bargaining? Absolutely not. What it
means is that we won’t be negotiating in an environment
that has a major competitor with drastically lower pay rates,
thus hamstringing our strength, as we have had for the past
decade. It also means that we are now in a much better
position to pattern bargain off of each other’s success in the
For the pilots of many of our fee-for-departure carriers, the
bargaining environment is very different, as the regional airline
industry continues to undergo transformational changes.
Some of these changes will be positive, resulting in more flow
to mainline carriers, but others will result in painful decisions
for our pilots and their families. ALPA remains committed to
ensuring that our pilots have the resources necessary for success.
As I said recently during a labor forum in Chicago, “We
can’t allow the labels of management—mainline, regional,
cargo, supplemental—to divide us. If we are divided, we will
fail. If we are united, we will prevail.”
And while there are certainly overall generalities that apply
to the negotiating environment in the different segments of
our industry—regional, mainline, cargo, supplemental, and
Canadian—we know that each negotiation or situation is
obviously unique, and the necessity of tailoring our support
and resources to all of our pilot
groups remains an ALPA priority.
In Canada, we are making
progress in our effort to turn back
the use of foreign workers to
threaten our members’ jobs. We
have more work to do, but recent
progress highlights the effectiveness
of pilot advocacy in Ottawa
and Washington, D.C. And we are
developing a “Leveling the Playing
Field” position paper specifically
targeting issues affecting our
Canadian members, such as
adding labor protections to air
transport agreements, including
the Canada/EU agreement and
all future agreements.
It’s clear that external factors
have an enormous effect on our
industry and the momentum we
are able to gain in the bargaining
and legislative cycles. And
it’s also clear that your union
is agile and able to adapt and
maneuver through the uncontrollable
forces that besiege us.
Our struggles are real. And our
raw fortitude to emerge and
overcome our challenges speaks for itself.
Thirteen years ago, our industry—and the world—suffered
from the atrocities of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But we endured
that horrific moment and its long-term emotional and
industrial effects. And now, at the very least, we are reminded
annually of how powerful a unified spirit is in the reawakening
cycle. You’ll find inside this magazine commemorative 9/11
stickers that I encourage you to display and share, serving as
a constant reminder of the unspeakable acts that sought to
destroy our spirit but triggered an entirely opposite reaction.
Yes, ALPA and its members are stronger today than we were
yesterday, but it was a hard road traveled, and we still have a long
way to go. To be successful in the future, we need to be in this
together. I hope I can count on you to stand with me and your
fellow pilots as we continue to grow stronger moving forward.