ALPA Leaders Gather to Conduct Association Business

By Gavin Francis, Senior Aviation Writer
Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, addresses the Association’s Executive Board.

The 133rd regular meeting of ALPA’s Executive Board was held October 18–19 at the Association’s McLean, Va., offices with ALPA’s national officers, executive vice presidents, and master executive council (MEC) chairs gathered to discuss union business.

Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, noted several of the Association’s recent achievements, including significant membership growth. “As we gather today, ALPA represents more pilots than at any other time in our union’s history,” he said. “And more than ever before, ALPA represents what it means to work as an airline pilot in the United States and Canada—and what the strength of unionism really looks like. I’m proud to report that in the past 10 months, this union has delivered for our pilots. Truly, we’ve changed history—bargained historic contracts and fought to defend the safest era in the airline industry’s existence.”

Ambrosi reported on the success of many of the union’s recent pilot collective bargaining campaigns but acknowledged that there was still much work to be done. “This year, our unity has already resulted in contracts with strong improvements in pay, retirement, quality of life, and job security at Air Wisconsin, Calm Air, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Spirit, United, Wasaya, and WestJet. It’s also made possible the joint collective bargaining agreement resulting from the merger between Perimeter and Bearskin. However, we still have work to do—and we have a lot of it, especially in cargo at Air Transport International and FedEx Express and with our brothers and sisters north of the border. But I don’t think anyone could doubt that our solidarity has created a sea change in management thinking. We’ve forced—you’ve forced—a fundamental recognition that aviation-sector companies can’t meet their growth targets if they don’t have pilots on board.”

Executive Board Meeting Fall 2023

Capt. Wendy Morse, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, reported on the Association’s Air Safety Organization (ASO) and its ongoing efforts regarding aviation safety, security, pilot assistance, and jumpseat, including runway safety, in-flight crimes, flight deck barriers, and the threat of removing pilots from the flight deck. She also updated the Executive Board on the future of the Known Crewmember® program, which the Transportation Security Administration plans to take ownership of and rebrand as the Expedited Crew Access program. Morse also spoke about specific instances of recent support that the ASO has provided to members, including to the crewmembers of FedEx Flight 1376 who experienced a gear-up landing in Chattanooga, Tenn., in early October, and to those who’ve been affected by the recent tragic events in the Middle East.

“As we watched and read about the rapidly deteriorating situation, which included multiple rocket attacks, hostages, and widespread death, our focus became the safety and security of ALPA members,” she said. “A flurry of activity here at ALPA continued around the clock to ensure that our members and other crew were accounted for and could be evacuated. When I talk about the strength and value of our ASO and the Engineering & Air Safety staff who supports it, this is what I’m talking about: safety in action, ready to engage when there’s a crisis or emergency.”

Morse also reported on the success of ALPA’s recent Air Safety Forum and gave an update on the union’s Political Action Committee (PAC). She noted that as of August, ALPA-PAC had received contributions from more than 14,350 ALPA members, representing a sizeable increase in member engagement, and that the Behncke 1931 Club, which was created in June, has seen rapid growth in participation.

Capt. Wes Clapper, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer, gave an overview of the Association’s current financial situation. “The Association finished last year with a net deficit of $30.8 million. This was due primarily to the drop in investment value—the same reduction I’m sure most of us saw in our personal investments in 2022. Just like we budget conservatively, we also invest conservatively, and those numbers are already rebounding. Our investment yield is back in the positive, and with that we’re currently at a net surplus of $57.2 million year to date through the end of August. That dues income, through August 31, puts us on pace to far surpass our budgeted dues revenue for the year.”

“It’s been an incredibly busy and exciting time for ALPA Canada,” said Capt. Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president, remarking on the enormous growth of ALPA’s membership in Canada. “With continued growth, we now represent 21 pilot groups and over 11,000 pilots in Canada. That’s more than 95 percent of all unionized pilots in the country. When I spoke here last May, it was on the day we welcomed the Air Canada pilots into our ALPA family. Our dream of being one voice for pilots became a reality,” he remarked. “We unified the two biggest pilot unions in our country showing them that we’re stronger together. The addition of Air Canada pilots also showed the remaining pilot groups in Canada that it’s all of us who look after the best interests of pilots. We’ve carried that momentum through the rest of the year, and since May, we’ve welcomed the pilots of Lynx Air, Keewatin Air, and Pascan Aviation. We’ve also provided pilot membership cards at the Canada Industrial Relations Board for 250 Air Inuit pilots.”

The Executive Board also addressed a vacancy among the national officer positions due to the resignation of Capt. Tyler Hawkins, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary, after accepting employment with United Airlines. During a special election, voters selected Capt. Sean Creed (Spirit), then an ALPA executive vice president and national resource coordinator, to fill the position for the remainder of the term. That election was subsequently ratified by ALPA’s Board of Directors in a vote that closed on November 8.

Ambrosi took a point of personal privilege to allow Hawkins to address the board. Hawkins expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to serve ALPA as a national officer and then made a final report to the Executive Board.

“I can’t begin to tell you what this experience has meant to me and the incredible support I’ve received from both pilots and staff,” said Hawkins. He went on to report that, as of October 1, ALPA had 76,693 members at 43 airlines—the most members in the union’s history. Hawkins also discussed ALPA’s Professional Development Group activities, efforts to make IT programs and services more widely available to ALPA pilot groups, the status of satellite local council meetings, and ALPA’s Pilots for Pilots, the Association’s emergency relief fund.

ALPA’s leaders were also joined by several guest speakers, including Deirdre Hamilton, National Mediation Board (NMB) chair. She touched on various aspects of the bargaining process, including meditation, arbitration, self-help, and Presidential Emergency Boards.

“ALPA is always very well prepared,” said Hamilton, commenting on the Association’s interactions with the NMB. “You all have excellent resources, and you’re really fortunate to have such reliable staff and organizational structure behind you. You’re working with some very good people.”

Vance Badawey, parliamentary secretary to Canada’s minister of Transport, updated the board on Canadian transportation regulatory development. He noted that a significant priority for Transport Canada is to develop closer collaboration with ALPA, saying that his door is always open to hearing the perspective of ALPA members.

“The past few years have been extremely difficult for this sector with the pandemic and related disruptions, including the challenge of relaunching the industry,” said Badawey. “But despite these difficulties, our pilots have continued to play a vital and pivotal role in maintaining connections between our people and our communities. As a government, we support our hard-working pilots. And I’m very proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together on the strong new regulations regarding flight crew fatigue.”

Executive Board members also heard from ALPA pilot representatives during the two days of meetings. Capt. Steve Jangelis (Delta), the Aviation Safety chair, reported on the Aviation Safety Group and some of the urgent safety concerns that pilots are currently facing. Capt. Ronan O’Donoghue (Alaska), ALPA’s Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee (SPSC) chair, and Creed, ALPA’s Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) lead, discussed SPSC and SPC activities and engagement with MECs. Capt. Travis Ludwig (United), ALPA’s Pilot Assistance chair, gave a briefing on his group’s work.

Executive Board business included a number of agenda items, including

  • Lifting of some spending category restrictions on local executive council (LEC) budgets, which will allow LECs to spend on items such as flight pay loss, buffet and plated food options for meetings, and group meal allowances, and expanding other areas of allowable spending.
  • An exemption from dues of spillover funds originally earmarked for retirement that have been returned to pilots who don’t have a company-sponsored retirement program or other investment vehicle that accepts 401(a)(17) excess cash contributions resulting from government-imposed limits.
  • An alteration of the offer to return funds language for the Major Contingency Fund to align with legal requirements.
  • Codification of the current practice that when in a dues-obligated status, pilots must pay dues when they receive airline income, regardless of when the payment was earned.
  • An increase in the dollar amount given for scholarships to $15,000 per year, up from $3,000 per year, a level that was set 35 years ago. The measure also includes a provision to increase a one-time grant to $10,000, up from a $2,000 limit set in 1995.

“As you all know well, we can’t move forward by standing still. Our work this week makes clear that we’re not standing still,” said Ambrosi, remarking on the significant progress the board achieved during the two days of meetings. “None of this would have been possible without each of you as leaders in our union. Thank you for showing what pilot solidarity looks like in the United States and Canada. Thanks to each of you, ALPA is well prepared to fight for our U.S. and Canadian line pilot members and for a strong future for our industry.”

ALPA’s next Executive Board meeting is scheduled to take place May 15–17, 2024.

This article was originally published in the December 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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