Our Union: The Time Is Now

By: Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA President

Leo Tolstoy said that the strongest of all warriors are time and patience. In Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, Ont., as well as at contract bargaining tables across the United States and Canada, ALPA pilots are exhibiting extraordinary unity, discipline, and commitment to our union’s long-term cause and course: representing our pilots. Despite all the external noise and distraction, ALPA pilots are standing unified and resolved—focused on this union’s goals, which are, after all, not about ALPA but about our members.

In a powerful display of unity, ALPA pilots have met the terrible destruction wrought by no fewer than five hurricanes with enormous generosity of spirit and support. Our members and other contributors have given more than $135,000 in donations to Pilots for Pilots, our union’s emergency relief program, since our first appeal related to the storms. We’ve received more than 120 grant applications, and help is on its way to our members in need. In addition to offering financial support, ALPA pilots serving in the Air National Guard and military reserves and those at JetBlue, United, and other airlines have flown relief supplies to Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas.

ALPA pilots also stand strong together when we’re in contract talks. As you’ll read in this issue, many airlines that are in negotiations with ALPA pilot groups currently have the ability to pay pilots a market-rate contract. Add to this fiscal strength the stability that the company and its investors will gain by signing long-term pilot contracts, and it’s clear that the time is now for management to come to the table with proposals that reflect their pilots’ contribution to their companies’ success.

The time is now––and ALPA pilots are turning out to demonstrate their solidarity for their pilot group negotiating committees and for each other. At Frontier, for example, pilots have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, and they’ve maintained momentum as they mark the one-year anniversary on October 1 of starting mediated talks with their company. JetBlue pilots just held another successful unity rally—this time in Boston, Mass., where more than 300 pilots turned out in support. Spirit pilots, who’ve also voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in a unified backing of their pilot negotiators, have kept the spirit of unity strong with recent informational picketing in Detroit, Mich., and Las Vegas, Nev.

In Canada, WestJet pilots began negotiations recently, marking the first official labour negotiations under the Canada Labour Code in the history of the airline. The talks take place on the heels of WestJet pilots’ landslide vote to join ALPA just five months ago. The pilots at Encore, WestJet’s wholly owned subsidiary, also began collecting cards to certify ALPA as their bargaining representative. The Encore pilots have been living for years without legal standing in talks with their management, and the time is now for the pilot group to experience the advantages of union representation.

All of these groups are benefiting from the strength of ALPA national’s vast resources, which are backing them every step of the way under the direction determined by their master executive council. F/O Kandy Bernskoetter (FedEx Express), ALPA’s new Membership Committee chair, highlights in her column that every decision ALPA makes and every action we take is about meeting our members’ needs.

Tolstoy’s mention of patience as the strongest warrior holds true for ALPA’s efforts on FAA reauthorization. While our union’s ultimate goal is to ensure a source of long-term, stable funding for the FAA, Congress has put in place a six-month extension. We support the continuation of funding, but U.S. passengers, cargo shippers, and all who benefit from air transportation need a long-term reauthorization. Regardless of the timing, ALPA’s priority in FAA reauthorization remains the same—advancing our members’ safety, security, and pilot-assistance priorities.

Whether it’s donating to Pilots for Pilots or retweeting in solidarity with members on the informational picket line, determined ALPA pilots are themselves the strongest warriors in deciding and delivering on the goals of our union.