Defending the Dignity of Work

By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President

This issue of Air Line Pilot marks the beginning of a new, leaner, more responsive ALPA. A union of professionals that speaks with one true voice. A union where our collective voice will be heard louder and more clearly than ever before in Washington D.C., in Ottawa, and around the world. A union that communicates with its members with the speed and efficiency that our times demand. And a union that upholds the collective rights of all its members equally.

As pilots and ALPA members, we’re trusted and respected as leaders who are committed to the highest standards of excellence. We’re the ones who bring loved ones together and deliver packages that hold special meaning for friends and families. While I believe it’s essential that workers find dignity in their jobs, the fact that airline pilots are exceptionally well qualified, intensely vetted, and make a career-long commitment to being trained for life deepens the dignity of our work.

Earlier this month, I delivered lunch as a small token of ALPA members’ appreciation to air traffic controllers and safety specialists at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport who were going without a paycheck because of the U.S. government shutdown. Despite the situation, they remained dedicated to safety and focused on professionalism. But I ask, what’s happened to the fundamental promise in our society of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?

As union members, we recognize the dignity of work in all its forms—our responsibility to perform our jobs to the highest standards. But we also expect and demand respect from our employers. Unions are the social glue that brings the political left and right together. The unity that results empowers workers to speak with one true voice, despite differences in politics, geography, and experience, and to achieve that fair day’s pay for that fair day’s work and to advance the safety and security of air transportation.

Last November, I was asked as an officer of ALPA to speak out against the labor injustices imposed on the pilots of Ryanair at a news conference in Berlin, Germany. The experience underscored just how interconnected we are when it comes to labor issues affecting our profession. It reminded me that union solidarity knows no borders—whether it’s pilots who fly for different airlines or pilots who work in different countries.

That’s one reason why, on my first day in office, I brought together pilots and staff to begin planning what promises to be one of our union’s flagship events for 2019—a summit to be held during the first part of the year called the “Pilot Career Development Initiative: From Recruitment to Retirement.”

In anticipation of taking office on January 1, I directed members of my transition team last December to reach out to all ALPA master executive council leaders to determine their pilots’ top concerns, so that my new administration would hit the ground running in 2019. We learned that pilots seek solutions to a multitude of problems that all fit into the broad category of the piloting career—issues such as attracting the next generation of pilots, career progression, and retirement. From this, the ALPA Pilot Career Development Initiative was born.

The value of unionism—of pilots working together—is just as vital for safety and security. A stronger safety culture is an important benefit of collective labor agreements, so it’s clear that unionism also helps make air transportation safer and more secure.

While we have much to do to advance ALPA members’ goals, the value of unionism is clear in promoting the dignity of our work. In the next four years, I look forward to ensuring that pilots have the lead at ALPA as our union speaks with one true voice in protecting our passengers, cargo, and crews and building a stronger profession for the future.

Today, we aren’t passenger or cargo pilots, mainline or regional, or U.S. or Canadian. We are all ALPA pilots.