Weighing In: ‘You’re Never Alone’

By Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA Vice President–Administration/Secretary

ALPA recently held its annual Leadership Training Conference to welcome and train our newest local council officers. The conference, conducted by Capt. David Farmer (Delta), chairman of the Association’s Leadership Committee, and other committee members, gives your newly elected officers the opportunity to learn more about their responsibilities and the vast resources that ALPA has to offer its members.

During this year’s conference, I shared with ALPA reps these three important words—“you’re never alone.” After four days of discussion, presentations, and other activities, I wanted them to know that help is always available.

Your local council representatives learned how to access subject-matter experts, including pilot committee volunteers and the union’s professional staff. We’re all just a phone call or e-mail away. They know how to find important documents like ALPA’s Constitution & By-Laws, Administrative Manual, and strategic plan. And they had the opportunity to network with representatives from other ALPA pilot groups and learn from their experiences. Regardless of how unique a challenge may seem, there’s likely someone within our organization who’s experienced the situation and can talk about the choices available and what worked best.

Take contract negotiations, for example. If your pilot group is new to ALPA and you lack prior bargaining experience, the union’s Economic & Financial Analysis Department will provide you with the economic history and outlook for the airline industry and detailed information about your airline’s finances.

The Representation Department will work with your pilot leaders and negotiators to help them become more effective at the bargaining table and share what pilots at comparable airlines have negotiated in their contracts.

ALPA’s Communications Department will help build your pilot group’s unity by suggesting the best communications tools to keep your members up to date and to solicit their feedback.

These are just a few of the many benefits of belonging to ALPA, the largest and most influential pilots’ union in the world.

And just like local council officers, all of ALPA’s members have access to the Association’s unsurpassed resources. If any of us is called into a chief pilot’s office for disciplinary action, an ALPA rep will go with us. If a health issue threatens our medical certification, physicians at ALPA’s aeromedical office are available to assist us.

The Association offers workshops to help fee-for-departure members advance to mainline flight decks. We provide furlough assistance to members whose carriers have shut down or are downsizing. In addition, ALPA’s committee structures deal with nearly every aspect of our professional lives, from ensuring that our schedules adhere to contract and regulatory standards to addressing concerns about layover hotels. It’s no coincidence that our members have long described our Association as “Pilots Helping Pilots.”

The fact is none of us is ever alone because our union provides us the resources and expertise to help us make the most of our careers. We have access to representation, legal, and aeromedical experts, along with a host of specialized products and services. However, to make this system work, we each have to give something back—we have to get involved.

Think of ALPA as the most advanced airliner to leave the manufacturing assembly line. With all of its incredible capabilities, the plane is a technological marvel. But it can’t go anywhere without the proper input—highly trained and skilled pilots still need to fly it.

Likewise, our union requires our participation and direction—in essence, our help—to set its priorities and determine the best way to advance our profession. Our members need to engage their local council leaders and communicate their interests and concerns. By doing so, we all help to keep ALPA on course to achieve our members’ goals and to enhance the profession for future generations of airline pilots.

This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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