‘Synergy Delivers Results’ Message Resonates at Strategic Preparedness Workshop

By Anya Piazza, Strategic Planning & Training Specialist
Capt. Ronan O’Donoghue (Alaska), left, ALPA’s Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee chair, discusses the resources available to ALPA master executive councils as Capt. Sean Creed, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary, looks on.

As you walk through the airport, don’t be surprised if one of your master executive council (MEC) Pilot-to-Pilot® volunteers offers you a cup of coffee and the latest facts on current negotiations. While the Air Canada Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee (SPSC) was the first to mention this initiative at ALPA’s Strategic Preparedness Workshop held on November 6–8, numerous pilot groups reported doing similar member reach-out to understand what motivates their pilots and to strengthen pilot unity.

Many SPSC tactics were discussed during the three-day workshop that brought together 75 pilot volunteers from 23 ALPA groups and 45 ALPA professional staff members who support MEC Strategic Planning, Strategic Preparedness and Strike, Pilot-to-Pilot, Communications, Family Awareness, and Negotiating Committees.

The biennial workshop was planned jointly by the SPSC, chaired by Capt. Ronan O’Donoghue (Alaska), and the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), led by Capt. Sean Creed, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary. These committees collaborate with staff through “Go Teams” to assist MECs in meeting their challenges, whether it’s strategic planning to develop priorities and initiatives for optimal union work focus or short-term strategy to improve communications between pilot leaders and members.

O’Donoghue noted that a workshop goal was to make groups aware of ALPA’s arsenal of talent and resources, such as SPSC and SPC support. “Don’t wait until you’re in a jam. Know what services are available in advance and let us help you plan contingencies. SPSC members have recent campaign experience and stand ready to share information so that others will benefit.”

A Go Team is formed at the request of an MEC chair and composed of an SPSC and SPC member along with staff from ALPA’s Representation, Communications, Strategic Member Development & Resources, and Economic & Financial Analysis Departments. Respecting confidentiality, they provide personalized support to the MEC through coordination of MEC and ALPA expertise and resources. Go Teams can be used during any stage of contract negotiations, contract implementation or enforcement, when an agreement in principle is reached, or to support other MEC projects like membership building.

“Our Go Team was with us every step of the way collaborating on weekly calls,” said F/O Christina Thomson (WestJet), her pilot group’s SPSC chair. “The team offered a neutral perspective to better organize projects. For example, we had the text for five podcast episodes in legal review, which saved time and effort.”

F/O Christina Thomson (WestJet), her pilot group’s Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee chair, talks about the assistance the Master Executive Council received from the WestJet Go Team regarding how to better organize projects.

ALPA Strategic Planning and the Power of Collaboration

Those attending the workshop discussed the value of constructive collaboration and working together to overcome obstacles, reported on recent activities, shared lessons learned, and offered advice based on their experiences.

“Collaboration among ALPA pilot groups and the desire to help one another and work collectively to advance our mutual interests is stronger than ever before in our union’s history,” said Creed.

The workshop emphasized MECs sharing their work, expertise, and materials. Every speaker offered to work one-on-one with MEC SPSCs when they need support and encouraged them to use proven strategies and tactics, adjusting them as needed for their unique situation.

“We aren’t 43 separate pilot groups doing their own thing—we’re a union working together for every member,” remarked Capt. Eric Cowan (Delta), the incoming chair of his pilot group’s MEC Strike Preparedness Committee.

Capt. Derek Lagasse (Endeavor Air), his pilot group’s Communications Committee chair, appreciated the workshop’s emphasis on building relationships. “I’ve learned a lot from other ALPA pilot groups trading ideas back and forth, and I think others have learned from me. That exchange of knowledge is great.”

Workshop topics included insights on ALPA’s bargaining strategy, pilot advocacy, and legal issues in the United States and Canada from staff in the Representation, Government Affairs, Legal, and Economic & Financial Analysis Departments.

“Our job is to understand what members want and to help create a plan to get there,” said Andrew Shostack, director of ALPA’s Representation Department. “Bargaining is generally a chaotic environment. It’s very different from a pilot flight plan where everything is controlled. We must plan, coordinate, communicate, implement, and expect the unexpected.”

Attendees also received an in-depth examination of the myriad of communication, IT, event planning, and financial tools available to them in discussions led by Capt. Wes Clapper, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer, and ALPA staff experts. Sessions were interactive, and participation was high as SPSC and SPC members facilitated panels and Q&As.

New to strategic planning and ALPA involvement, Capt. Rene Allain (WestJet Encore), his pilot group’s Pilot-to-Pilot Committee chair, observed, “It was great to see pilots from the bigger carriers willing to help pilots from smaller ones who have less resources and money to achieve their goals. We really are all in this together.”

Strong Communications

While speaking on a communications panel, Capt. David Campbell (Alaska), an SPSC member, stressed that MECs should create a communications plan that adheres to the overall MEC strategic plan and informs pilot actions: what you need to do, in what way, and when. “Communications are tactical. Always be closing; think of the end goal—how does this thing I’m doing help me get to the goal,” he said.

Capt. Michael Wilson (United), his MEC’s Communications Committee chair, discussed the importance of trust and transparency. He credited those two key communication components with the turnaround of United pilots and the assistance and support of ALPA and Delta SPSC teams. “Who helps people who they don’t know?” asked Wilson. “We do. We’re union pilots, and we help anyone who needs it.”

F/O Maggie Eickhoff (Delta), standing, a member of ALPA’s Strategic Planning Committee, and Capt. David Campbell (Alaska), left, a member of ALPA’s Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee, lead the panel discussion “Best Practices and Deploying New Tactics–Pilot-to-Pilot and Family Awareness.”

Synergy Delivers Results

Capt. David Smith (United), his MEC’s SPSC chair, was one of the 570 pilots hired in 1985 to operate aircraft on Day 1 of the United pilot strike; however, that never happened thanks to ALPA’s strong SPSC, Family Awareness, and strategic communications campaigns. Only four of those 570 pilots crossed the picket line on the first day of the strike. “Unity is how you win every time,” he said, “and I love to see that you’re all plugged in, and we’re acting like a union.”

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

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