Executive Board Meeting Highlights Advocacy Efforts, Features Eminent Speakers

By John Perkinson, Senior Staff Writer
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) addresses ALPA’s Executive Board, asserting that the aviation industry is safer and stronger with the passage of the latest FAA reauthorization legislation.

ALPA’s Executive Board assembled for its 134th regular meeting at the union’s McLean, Va., offices on May 15–16 to hear presentations from pilots and staff as well as several notable government and labor officials; act on 17 agenda items addressing Association policy and other issues; and receive a briefing on the strategic planning process, which Board of Directors (BOD) delegates will take part in this fall.

The meeting opened with remarks from the union’s national officers. “ALPA is a leading voice for aviation safety and the labor movement in the U.S. and Canada,” Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, asserted. “With your help, we’ve made aviation and the careers of pilots stronger, and we’ll keep building on that success for our members.”

During his presentation, Ambrosi remarked on the first-of-its-kind across-the-board approximate $50 million offer of return of dues to ALPA pilots. On April 19, he announced that in response to the record 2023 revenue gains, and after a thorough review of union finances by the Structure, Services, and Finance Review (SSAFR) Committee, the Executive Council approved an offer of return of approximately $50 million (CAD $69 million) in surplus funds.

Ambrosi also discussed the Association’s successful efforts to influence the latest FAA reauthorization legislation, ongoing contract negotiations at several ALPA pilot groups, and the union’s actions to thwart reduced-crew operations (RCO).

ALPA’s president acknowledged, “Across all the work that we do as a union, we’re seeing the results of pilots and staff working together to achieve the common goals of our members. We’re negotiating strong contracts, returning value to our members, creating international partnerships to address the safety threats our industry faces, and we’re working more efficiently.”

ALPA Executive Board Spring 2024

“Your Air Safety Organization [ASO] continues to do exceptional work on behalf of ALPA and its member pilots,” observed Capt. Wendy Morse, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator. “ASO safety volunteers and Engineering & Air Safety staff have been particularly busy given the number of recent accidents, incidents, and groundings, which continue to raise concerns about aviation safety.”

In her report, Morse highlighted the Association’s recent efforts to bring aviation security stakeholders together for ALPA’s In-flight Crimes Symposium. ALPA’s first vice president also reported on the union’s participation on the FAA-chartered Mental Health and Aviation Medical Clearances Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and its 24 recommendations and the union’s “Are You in the Green?” campaign to encourage pilots to self-evaluate their mental health status before flying.

Briefing the Executive Board on ALPA-PAC, Morse reported that the Association is “on track to raise more than $5 million,” adding that the PAC is likely to exceed 16,000 donors in 2024.

“A top priority for this administration is enhancing the Association’s support for master executive councils [MECs], providing you, as MEC leaders, with greater resources and coordination to help you better serve your pilot groups,” reported Capt. Sean Creed, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary. He discussed ALPA’s mentoring efforts, including its use of learning management systems, Qooper mentoring software, and RealMagnet “drip” campaigns.

“We’re collaborating across the union to define mentoring, refine programs, and connect with ALPA pilots to build an engaged and informed membership for our growing union,” Creed observed. He acknowledged the work of the union’s Strategic Planning and Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committees in providing “Go Teams” for more than 85 percent of ALPA MECs in the United States and Canada during the past year. ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary also covered the ongoing outreach efforts of the Association’s Professional Development Group and the logistics and deadlines for the upcoming BOD meeting.

“More than 11,000 pilots have been hired in the last year,” said Creed. “The unprecedented pilot movement across our system presents tremendous opportunities to educate our members about ALPA and the benefits of belonging to a union.”

In his presentation, Capt. Wes Clapper, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer, noted, “Over the past few years, we’ve introduced new programs, grants, and policies that allow the Association, from top to bottom, more access to our hard-earned dues dollars on things that will make our members’ work environments, contracts, and lives better.”

Clapper talked about his role as the SSAFR chair and the committee’s efforts to make “ALPA policy clearer and update it so that it makes more sense in today’s world.” In addition to his financial update, he discussed the creation of the President’s Grievance Committee to help the Association’s 41 pilot groups work together to strengthen the union’s collective contract enforcement efforts (see the March 2024 issue).

ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer also highlighted a resolution the Executive Board would vote on requiring MECs to publicly share utilized flight-pay loss hours on their pilot group’s website at least quarterly. He asserted, “This type of transparency with our members is necessary to build trust.”

ALPA Canada Update

ALPA Canada has been extremely active this year, with the onboarding of Air Canada pilots, who joined the Association in 2023, and other new pilot groups; protracted contract negotiations at several properties; and the union’s extensive work on Parliament Hill. Following national officer reports, Capt. Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president, briefed the Executive Board on the group’s priorities and accomplishments, noting, “Between our ongoing organizing efforts, our focused communications strategies, international affiliations, and, of course, our relationship with the government and Transport Canada, we’ve been getting results.”

Among the various projects and initiatives, ALPA Canada launched a nationwide marketing campaign—“There’s a lot riding on our wings”—promoting the Association and the airline piloting profession. Television ads, which ran for six weeks, underscored to others in the airline industry, the traveling public, and government officials that airline pilots take their responsibilities seriously.

Perry observed that ALPA Canada is working closely with the minister of Transport’s office on initiatives to address nonpassenger screening, medical certificate processing, and pilot supply. ALPA Canada’s president also reported, “We’ve met regularly with industry stakeholders and parliamentarians on flight-time/duty-time regulations to ensure that ALPA’s opposition is understood regarding any exemption, requested rollback, or suspension of the fatigue regulations.”

Featured Speakers

The meeting also featured several distinguished speakers whom ALPA continues to collaborate with to advance safe and efficient airline operations. In his remarks, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) described ALPA’s Government Affairs team as “the best in the business.” Acknowledging the passage of the latest FAA reauthorization bill in the House, he noted, “Because of what happened yesterday, as a result of your work, your profession is stronger, your jobs are going to be safer, and the public will be very well serviced.”

Fitzpatrick has been a staunch advocate for mandated secondary flight deck barriers on all FAA Part 121 passenger aircraft. He noted that Capt. Victor Saracini, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, was a former constituent and that he continues to work with Ellen, Victor’s widow, to promote various aviation safety and security measures.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su, speaking to Executive Board members virtually, congratulated them on the many priorities the Association was able to successfully secure in the final FAA reauthorization legislation.

“Union organizing is really the best example of how democracy works,” remarked Su, who commented on the recent success of the labor movement. “In many ways, the workers’ voice has never been stronger,” she observed. “I know that pilot solidarity and your willingness to stand together is also at a high.” Gallup in 2023 announced polling results indicating that two-thirds of Americans approve of labor unions, and support for workplace representation has been climbing since 2009.

Referencing her status as a frequent flyer, Su added, “I’m a direct beneficiary of the skill, talent, and high-caliber work that you and all your members do…. You maintain the gold standard of aviation safety that I’m personally very grateful for.”

Rich Santa, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and a veteran controller from Washington Center and the New York TRACON, also addressed the Executive Board. He thanked ALPA’s leaders for the support they continue to provide and the “synergistic connection that we have.”

Santa talked about the challenges air traffic control continues to face, including understaffing; excessive, mandated overtime; and the need to upgrade ATC technology. He also examined the obstacles in introducing advanced air mobility aircraft (e.g., air taxis) that would operate from on-airport vertiports as well as new complications that could arise as commercial space transportation continues to grow.

Pilot/Staff Perspectives

The meeting featured several pilot and staff presentations that updated ALPA leaders on recent union activities and engagement with fellow aviation stakeholders. Capt. Travis Ludwig (United), the ASO Pilot Assistance Group chair, and Dr. Quay Snyder, ALPA’s aeromedical advisor and president/CEO of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, reviewed the 24 individual recommendations of the recently concluded Mental Health and Aviation Medical Clearances ARC. Ludwig acted as the ARC’s cochair while Snyder served as a member.

In May 2015, following the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and Germanwings Flight 9525 incidents, the FAA established a previous ARC to evaluate the state of pilot mental health. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General recognized that, even after these findings were reported, the FAA’s ability to curtail safety risks could still be hampered by pilot reluctance to disclose mental-health conditions, prompting another examination.

As part of the latest ARC’s 164-page report, participants identified barriers to pilots feeling comfortable enough to disclose their conditions, including culture, trust, fear, stigma, finances, process, knowledge, and an informational gap. Ludwig noted that at the time of the Executive Board meeting, he hadn’t yet seen the FAA’s response to the recommendations.

“The report from the ARC is getting worldwide attention,” said Snyder, who added that with this new information, “We want to increase mental-health literacy.”

During the meeting, Ambrosi moderated a panel discussion on the Association’s ongoing advocacy efforts featuring Elizabeth Baker, director of ALPA’s Government Affairs Department; Stacey Bechdolt, director of the Engineering & Air Safety Department; David Weaver, director of the Communications Department; and Marcus Migliore, director of the Legal Department.

The group reviewed the union’s efforts to include priorities in the FAA reauthorization legislation. Among the ALPA-promoted considerations addressed in the bill, the Association successfully lobbied for maintaining the 1,500-hour training requirement for FAR Part 121 pilots, a standardized system for reporting smoke and fume events on passenger-carrying aircraft and rulemaking to allow onboard detectors and monitoring equipment, and enhanced runway and airport alerting systems. ALPA also helped prevent the inclusion of language related to installing cockpit image recorders.

In addition, the panelists discussed B-737 MAX certification, the Boeing whistleblower who recently raised allegations about B-787 structural concerns, efforts to promote RCO, and legislation in Canada barring the use of replacement workers in the event of a strike. Asked by a member of the audience about ALPA’s efforts, Baker remarked, “Advocacy never stops.”

Capt. Dana Dann-Messier (Delta), ALPA’s Strategic Planning Committee lead, reviewed the strategic planning process and timeline for 2024 and what elected pilot leaders should expect at the upcoming BOD meeting. “ALPA has engaged in strategic planning for over 30 years,” he noted.

Dann-Messier acknowledged the work of the Special Representational Structure Review Committee in preparation for ALPA’s strategic planning exercises and stressed the need for ALPA’s elected pilot leaders to get involved in the process. Members interested in reviewing the union’s latest strategic plan are encouraged to visit alpa.org/strategicplan.

Among the many agenda items before the Executive Board, the members passed resolutions addressing the Operating Fund threshold of ALPA’s Operating Contingency Fund, the total amount of the Association’s scholarship awards, the Professional Development Group composition, and policy regarding charitable contributions.

During the meeting, ALPA also awarded last year’s J.J. O’Donnell Trophy for Excellence in Political Action to the Delta MEC. “Yesterday, the ALPA-PAC Steering Committee approved the recommendation to award the 2023 J.J. O’Donnell Trophy,” said Ambrosi, noting that the 2024 award would be given this October at the BOD meeting. The trophy recognizes the pilot group that led the Association in contributions and commitment to ALPA-PAC over the past year.

ALPA’s Executive Board is made up of the Association’s four national officers, ALPA Canada president, 11 executive vice presidents, and 41 MEC chairs, and meets twice a year. This governing body conducts Association-wide business and addresses strategic and policy issues for the union between BOD meetings.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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