Row the Boat

Weighing In

By Capt. Joseph Genovese, ALPA Vice President–Finance/Treasurer

Row the boat.

Those of you who are college football fans may have heard this phrase before.

It’s the mantra of P.J. Fleck, the head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He started it at Western Michigan and brought it with him to Minnesota in 2017.

So what does this have to do with ALPA? Well, this creed applies to the work we’ve done and continue to do as we’ve dealt with the COVID pandemic and its effects on the airline industry.

If you’ve ever rowed, you know that you set your destination, face your launching point, and use your most powerful strokes to meet your goal—with everyone rowing together.

This is what it’s taken for ALPA from a financial standpoint as we row our boat through the pandemic. Everyone rowing together: our master executive councils (MECs) and their 130-plus agreements with management to keep pilots on property; our pilots, sacrificing for each other; and our efforts to secure three iterations of the payroll protection plan—with ALPA’s entire staff rowing with us.

This isn’t to say we’re back to where we were before—not quite yet. Our 2022 budget, while building on 2021, still falls below the numbers budgeted for 2020 prepandemic. But if we keep rowing the boat together, we’ll continue along our positive path.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, as a result of our conservative but consistent investments, we’ve been able to make some positive changes that will benefit our members and the next generation of airline pilots.

Two years ago, the Structure, Services, and Financial Review Committee was established to address the usage and balances of ALPA’s Major Contingency Fund (MCF). During the recent Executive Board meeting, changes were approved that will benefit our entire organization.

Executive Board members voted to open up the MCF to provide grants to our MECs—every single MEC—for the year following contract signing to assist with the added expenses of contract implementation and any grievances that may be filed.

We realized that many MECs had depleted their financial resources as a result of contract negotiations and the ratification process, leaving little funds available for postcontract needs. Now, every MEC will receive these MCF funds, and even if the funds aren’t used, they’ll remain in the MEC’s budget.

The Executive Board also approved the use of MEC funds to help support pilots who suddenly are without a job if an airline unexpectedly shuts down. As a result of this action, as of the shutdown date, any remaining MEC financial obligations will be transferred to ALPA’s Operating Contingency Fund (OCF) and the remaining MEC fund balance will be refunded to the pilots.

Even beyond the MCF and OCF, our consistent, conservative budgeting has allowed us to contribute to worthwhile causes. The Association recently

  • established a new scholarship within ALPA’s Education Committee in the name of F/O Costas Sivyllis (United, Dec.) who we sadly lost last year.
  • launched a volunteer training fund to allow smaller MECs and local executive councils to send pilots to national training events to build our pilot volunteer base.
  • granted $1 million to ALPA’s Pilots for Pilots fund to ensure it can continue to offer assistance to our members and their families when they need a helping hand.
  • donated a total of $200,000 to the memorial funds of our fellow pilots who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

The hard work of each and every ALPA volunteer over the last decade—and more recently over the past two years—has advantageously positioned us to not only weather this latest storm, but to also emerge fiscally strong and sound.

The COVID pandemic has made the last year-and-a-half challenging for all of us. But if we all continue to row the boat, focusing on our direction and what we can control inside the boat, we’ll continue to move forward as an Association and succeed in the face of adversity—and come out even stronger on the other side.

This article was originally published in the November 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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