United Pilots
Members of the United Master Executive Council with the J.J. O’Donnell Trophy.

In October 2016, members of the United Master Executive Council (MEC) proudly stood before their fellow ALPA pilot leaders at the Association’s 46th Board of Directors meeting in Washington, D.C., as they again accepted the J.J. O’Donnell trophy, which recognizes the pilot group that led the Association in contributions and commitment to ALPA-PAC over the past year.

Receiving this award for the second straight year is a source of pride for the United MEC officers, MEC members, and the pilots they represent. Their real satisfaction, however, derives from the knowledge that the trophy represents the continuing leadership role the pilots play in fighting for the airline piloting profession, whether it’s at the bargaining table or in the halls of government in Washington, D.C.

“Awareness of and involvement in the political issues that impact our careers are paramount for United pilots,” said Capt. Todd Insler, the pilots’ MEC chairman and longtime ALPA volunteer. “Since ALPA’s inception, the United pilots have been leading the charge to protect pilots’ rights and improve the lives of not just United pilots, but those of all airline pilots. This is who we are, and this is what we will continue to do.” Insler added, “Recognition of our work through the J.J. O’Donnell trophy is appreciated, and the quest to be next year’s winner will inspire new-hire pilots and other pilot groups to get involved in the legislative and governing process.”

Nine United Local Executive Councils (LECs)—Council 5 (NYC), 11 (DCA), 12 (ORD), 33 (DEN), 34 (SFO), 57 (LAX), 93 (DEN training center), 172 (CLE), and 173 (Guam)—were also honored with ALPA’s Key Men Society Award, which recognizes LECs with the highest percentage of PAC participation among their members.

On the legislative front, United pilots continue to mobilize to reverse the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) decision to grant a final order to allow Norwegian Air International (NAI) to operate into the United States. “This flawed ruling circumvents important labor provisions of the Open Skies agreement. We vehemently disagree with the DOT’s decision, which is nothing but a slap across the face to the entire U.S. aviation industry,” said Insler, who led a large contingent of United pilots to the White House in 2016 to call on the Obama administration to enforce the U.S.–EU Air Transport Agreement, defend fair competition, and to deny NAI a foreign air carrier permit.

Insler has vowed to continue fighting the DOT’s decision on NAI, which will impact each pilot and all aviation workers. “We will commence a fierce appeal directly to Capitol Hill and the White House,” stated Insler, “and will fully utilize any legal recourse we have.”

On the bargaining front, with the Jan. 31, 2019, amendable date for the United pilot agreement approaching, the United MEC already is preparing for the next round of negotiations. In November, the MEC called a special session to conduct strategic planning with an emphasis on collective bargaining. And a local council contract survey was launched in October, giving the pilots their first opportunity to weigh in on what they’d like to see in their next contract.

In early October, United pilots said goodbye to Capt. Roger Hall, who passed away after a lengthy illness. He led United pilots through the strike of 1985 and helped defeat United management’s attempt to impose a two-tier wage system.

Hall, who, according to Insler, “set the gold standard for unionized labor and whose legacy continues to inspire us,” had a long history of ALPA service, including his positions as local council representative, United Negotiating Committee chairman, United MEC chairman, and ALPA first vice president.