ALPA’s Executive Board Examines Union’s Pandemic Response

Conducts first-ever virtual meeting

By John Perkinson, Senior Staff Writer
In June, ALPA’s Executive Board convened its first-ever virtual meeting to conduct the Association’s business.

ALPA’s Executive Board conducted its most recent regular meeting on June 24 under unique circumstances. Because of the global pandemic, the union’s national officers, executive vice presidents, and master executive council chairs convened virtually for the first time, using videoconferencing to conduct the business of the union. This measure was taken to promote social-distancing practices to limit the spread of COVID-19. Following roll call and a brief report from the Credentials Committee, the 126th regular meeting of the Executive Board continued with national officer reports.

“In launching ALPA’s new ‘Welcome Back, Welcome Aboard’ campaign, our union has charted a comprehensive and pragmatic approach for protecting our pilots’ jobs and livelihoods through the economic downturn,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA’s president. Through this initiative, the Association is working to protect jobs through advocacy for pilot-partisan legislation and innovative contract negotiations. DePete noted that the Association is also making every effort to rebuild public confidence to return to flying. “Through our national policy efforts, ALPA is working to increase bookings and get pilots who are furloughed back on the line as soon as possible,” he remarked.

In his report, DePete highlighted the union’s successful legislative efforts to secure meaningful job and pay protections for pilots and other airline workers through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (see “The CARES Act: What It Means to ALPA Members” in the May 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot). “As you know, this bill gave us time to prepare to weather potential employment changes individually and negotiate in this new environment collectively,” he said, explaining the additional steps ALPA is taking in the United States and Canada to safeguard pilot jobs. He concluded, “With the help of every pilot leader here, we’ll prevail in the days ahead in restoring and reshaping our industry to create a healthy, safe, inclusive, and prosperous future for all our pilots.”

Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, acknowledged the outstanding efforts of ALPA’s Air Safety Organization (ASO) in addressing aviation safety and security concerns related to the pandemic. “We as an Association immediately recognized the need for a regulatory mandate that airlines follow the guidance of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the FAA in keeping our aircraft clean and properly disinfected.” Fox noted, “This mandate would be the foundation of restoring public confidence in aviation and bring our passengers back. We need that for our carriers’ financial success and to save our members’ jobs.”

Fox highlighted the role of the Data Action Report (DART) program in collecting evidence of inconsistent aircraft cleaning and disinfecting protocols. He also talked about the B-737 MAX and the work to repeal the Federal Communications Commission license recently issued to Ligado, a satellite communications company, to build ground-based 5G data networks that can interfere with existing GPS and satellite communications receivers. “We’ve made immense progress, even in these unusual times, in improving what is already the safest and most secure form of transportation in the history of the world, but the work of the ASO will always continue; the work that we do will never stop,” he commented.

“It’s no secret that many of our members could be adversely affected by what’s been happening in the airline industry,” said Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA’s vice president−administration/secretary. “They need to know ALPA has all kinds of resources available to get through this difficult time.” Couette listed products and services that the Association’s Membership Committee and Furloughed Pilots Support Program continue to make available, including details about benefits, medical resources, and insurance programs; educational opportunities; career counseling and job leads; financial aid and hardship assistance; and resources for dealing with stress, family issues, and other issues members may have. Access ALPA's furlough resources.

Couette discussed the expansion of Pilots for Pilots, ALPA’s emergency relief fund, to include those members suffering financial hardships related to COVID-19. He highlighted the ongoing efforts of the Information Technology Advisory Committee and its work to update ALPA’s web content management system and search engine. Couette also talked about improvements to ALPA’s mobile app, including a soon-to-be-available jumpseat flight finder feature. “This enhancement will help you determine the most efficient route to your destination, even if it’s a multileg commute on different carriers,” he said.

ALPA has conservatively managed its finances over the years, anticipating that there would always be periodic aviation industry downturns. Capt. Joseph Genovese, ALPA’s vice president−finance/treasurer, observed, “Even with all the upheaval in the industry and all the uncertainty surrounding us as we work our way through this public-health and economic crisis, our past work has positioned us with the opportunity to come out on the other side of this stronger.” Genovese provided the Executive Board with an overview of the Association’s current budget, projected dues income, and the adjustments ALPA is making to ensure that the union remains on solid financial footing.

“Our costs are down in part because we haven’t been traveling or holding the meetings that we anticipated would happen,” Genovese remarked. “For instance, we’ve canceled many internal events, like the Legislative Summit and the Air Safety Forum, and moved many of our other meetings, like this one, to a virtual platform.” He noted, “We won’t truly know until all airlines make their decisions exactly how our dues will be affected next year. So we’re going to remain flexible and revisit the numbers in October and beyond once we have a better understanding of our situation.”

The Executive Board addressed 14 resolutions dealing with a broad range of ALPA policy matters. Among these, the board approved a measure to move the Association’s Pilot Peer Support (PPS) program from the jurisdiction of the Aeromedical Group to become a separate discipline under the Pilot Assistance structure. PPS is the Association’s network of trained pilot volunteers who members can contact when encountering work- and nonwork-related issues of a personal or emotional nature. PPS will join Aeromedical, Professional Standards, the Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS), the Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP), and Pilot Assistance-Canada under the Pilot Assistance structure.

The board also approved an amendment to Article VIII of the ALPA Constitution and By-Laws, updating fine points of the Association’s hearing and appeals process. Following recommendations from the union’s Special Representational Structure Review Committee to update procedures and the support of the ALPA Executive Council, the union’s Executive Board approved forwarding the measure to the Association’s largest governing body. The resolution will be addressed by the Board of Directors at its meeting in October.

Other agenda items dealt with amendments to ALPA’s accounting and finance practices and proposed adjustments to ASO policies concerning the electronic flight bag, runway overrun warning systems, and noise abatement. Several of these latter efforts were passed to bring ALPA policy in line with the latest developments in technology.

The next meeting of ALPA’s Executive Board is scheduled to take place in September.

This article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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