One Vision, One Voice

ALPA’s Executive Board welcomes Continental pilots back in a critical component of ALPA’s unity campaign.

Air Line Pilot, June/July 2001, p. 10
By Chris Dodd

If the spirit of Dave Behncke hangs around meetings of ALPA’s elected leadership 70 years after the union’s founding, it’s a good bet "the old man" was smiling down on the 87th Executive Board.

In an emotionally charged ceremony on the first day of its meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 22, the Executive Board put the final stamp of approval on the merger agreement with the Independent Association of Continental Pilots (IACP).

The merger, which became effective June 1, brings on board about 7,000 pilots and flight instructors of Continental and Continental Express, and transforms the current IACP Board of Directors into the new Continental Master Executive Council.

The day was marked with rounds of congratulations for pilot volunteers and staff, acknowledgements of support from present and past leaders, and the sense that the union had taken an important step toward moving beyond the bitter differences in its past and concentrating on its future.

And no one seemed more pleased than ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, who has made securing ALPA’s place as the pilots’ union the centerpiece of his administration.

"I have no new vision to offer you," Capt. Woerth told the Executive Board, which is made up of MEC chairs from all the ALPA-represented carriers. "The only vision I have is that of ALPA’s founders—the original vision…unvarnished, old-fashioned, low-tech, but tremendously effective: One Union, One Voice."

The Executive Board vote, following IACP member ratification of the merger, Capt. Woerth said, "concludes the first leg of our One Union, One Voice campaign, but, more importantly, proves to the world that this union will not be broken. It took nearly two decades," he declared, "but Frank Lorenzo is gone and ALPA is back at Continental."

Capt. Pat Burke, then IACP president and now Continental MEC chairman, said the occasion would mark a turning point in the history of the Continental pilots with ALPA. "Now’s the time to stop looking back. We stopped looking back a long time ago."

Capt. Burke presented Capt. Woerth with a scale model of a B-777, with the inscription echoing ALPA’s call for pilot unity: "Joining the quest for a global pilots union." Capt. Woerth held the model aloft to a standing ovation.

Former ALPA presidents, Capts. Henry Duffy and J. Randolph Babbitt, who began the process of healing the rift with the Continental pilots that Frank Lorenzo caused, were in the audience to witness the historic occasion.

The "second leg" of the journey toward unity, Capt. Woerth reminded the Executive Board, is to bring about the return of FedEx pilots to the ALPA fold. The FedEx Pilots Association Board of Directors on May 17 directed the FPA president to begin negotiations with ALPA on a merger of the two unions.

As in the Continental merger, the merger document must be approved by the independent union’s Board of Directors and ratified by its members and by ALPA’s Executive Council and Executive Board.

The Executive Board also made certain that the pilot unity campaign kept up a good head of steam, approving a transfer of as much as $1.5 million from the Operating Contingency Fund’s Special Projects account for organizing activities this year. Discussions with other independent unions are ongoing.

Comair contingent

The celebratory tone of the meeting was tempered by the ongoing strike at Comair (for more on the Comair strike, see "Pilot Report," page 33).

The Comair pilots, a number of whom attended, got several standing ovations during the course of the 2-day meeting.

The Comair MEC chairman, Capt. J.C. Lawson, addressed the Executive Board on behalf of the "1,348 trade unionists at Comair." In impassioned remarks, Capt. Lawson thanked all ALPA pilots for their financial and emotional support through the course of the then 58-day-old work stoppage and urged them to "aggressively honor" the Comair MEC’s picket lines.

No more "regional"

The Executive Board passed a resolution committing its "unwavering support" to the Comair strike initiative and also pledged to strike the term "regional jet" from ALPA’s lexicon. Capt. Woerth, who has often pointed out that the routes flown by newer, smaller jets are so extensive that they belie the "regional" designation, said he considered elimination of the term a "presidential order…. You may refer to these aircraft as real jets, or revenue jets, but under no circumstance may you refer to them as ‘regional’ jets. It is said that perception often becomes reality," he added. "If that’s the case, then one of the first and most symbolic things we can do to honor the…Comair pilots’ strike is to permanently ban the use of the term."

‘Paperless’ elections

In ALPA’s 70th anniversary year, the Executive Board also took up a number of matters to bring the institution into the 21st century.

The Executive Board codified Administrative Manual language that will pave the way for the first "paperless ballots" in the conduct of ALPA elections this fall. The group approved amendments permitting telephone and Internet balloting for local council elections, strike ballots, and general membership ballots or surveys.

The January Executive Council had approved the use of such balloting on an interim basis; in fact, several MECs have successfully used telephone balloting for contract ratification. (A story on some of the new technologies and on changes to voting procedures will appear in an upcoming issue of Air Line Pilot.)

Reorganizing LECs/MECs

The Special Representational Structure Review Committee (SRSRC), tasked with making recommendations for adapting and modernizing ALPA’s current MEC and LEC system to better serve members, also reported on its progress.

To date, the Committee has helped ALPA’s governing bodies codify the variations of local council and MEC representation already being used by ALPA members—e.g., a local council for each domicile, several domiciles grouped under a single council, and single- versus multi-council MECs.

The Executive Board adopted the Committee’s recommendation that ALPA consider adding another method of representation as an option—a "seniority block" system such as that in place at FedEx. Under that system, an MEC determines the number of representatives it needs and apportions them, with Executive Council approval, in relatively equal-sized "blocks."

Rather than the traditional captain, first officer, second officer arrangement that ALPA councils employ, the blocks are grouped by seniority, explained Capt. Robert Shelton (Delta), the SRSRC’s chairman. The MEC would also determine the number of local councils—e.g., an area that has a large concentration of pilots could be broken up into several local councils, if needed.

The arrangement has a number of benefits, Capt. Shelton pointed out. It could make for a more equitable distribution of workload for pilot representatives. It also provides a "tremendous amount of flexibility" to MECs in providing a fair method of representation for its pilots, he added.

Such an arrangement would be offered only as an option for MECs who might wish to use it, and a few MEC chairmen have expressed interest in talking to the Committee about how it might function. "I don’t envision everyone leaping at it," Capt. Shelton added. A pilot group’s using the seniority block option would require Executive Council approval.

The Executive Board’s recommendation of Constitution and By-Laws changes (which must be approved by a ballot of the full Board of Directors) also clears the way for further discussions with FedEx pilots about their possible reentry into ALPA and the chance to see how such a representational option works.

Scope impact

The Bilateral Scope Impact Committee (BSIC), created by the October 2000 Board of Directors meeting, also presented its interim report to the Executive Board and urged ALPA’s leaders to foster dialogue on the topic.

Capt. Ron Abel (United), who is co-chairman of the six-member committee with Capt. Tom Wychor (Mesaba), reported that the group had met four times since its formation and had spelled out a number of issues to be explored, including the following:

• evolution of scope clauses,

• changes in the airline industry and different airline or business relationship structures,

• methods for raising contract standards for mainline affiliates and small-sized pilot groups,

• "career path" issues—career progression and allocation of flying concerns that have evolved into a major source of tension within the union, and

• methods of improving member/alliance/affiliation relations within ALPA.

The BSIC has discussed two concepts:

• establishing "bargaining forums" for smaller airlines to help improve contracts at those carriers and

• establishing "joint standing committees" among MECs of alliance and code-share partners, to address issues of concern affecting their members, including scope impact.

The BSIC intends to proceed with discussions on the other items on its agenda.

Capt. Abel urged the Executive Board members to educate their respective MEC members on the issues and concepts that the Committee had presented and to provide meaningful feedback as the Committee works through its tasks.

"The Committee cannot operate within a vacuum," Capt. Abel warned. "What we determine here will have a profound effect on the future of this union."

Other Executive Board actions

In other action, the Executive Board

• approved, by acclamation, the nomination of Capt. John Cox (US Airways) as Executive Air Safety Chairman [he had been serving as temporary EASC since the resignation of Capt. Paul McCarthy (Delta) in February];

• pledged "full moral support" and necessary funding for the TWA MEC to carry out seniority integration and other matters attendant to TWA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy and subsequent merger with American Airlines;

• at the behest of the TWA MEC, suggested that the Association consider making a legislative priority the goal of changing the bankruptcy code of the United States and Canada to protect seniority, employment, and scope and successor clauses to employees of carriers that may be similarly acquired;

• directed ALPA’s President to name a committee to review ALPA merger policy regarding the role of pilot neutrals in light of the fact that decisions of the Arbitration Board are made by the arbitrator;

• approved initial allocations of $1 million each from the Major Contingency Fund to the PSA and Ryan MECs, both in protracted contract negotiations, to fund strike preparedness, communications, and family awareness efforts;

• encouraged all MECs to provide input and assistance to the Captain’s Authority Committee to help it complete its research—a committee survey soliciting anecdotal information from line pilots is posted on ALPA’s website;

• directed that the Association continue to monitor the development of bilateral and multilateral pilot license and certification programs and work to ensure that ALPA pilots’ interests are protected;

• directed the Aeromedical Committee to investigate the methods used for chemical spraying of aircraft for pest control, to determine the effects of such procedures on crewmembers’ health, and to work with the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) to procure a safe spraying standard and procedure for operations worldwide;

• amended the Administrative Manual to specify that a member’s willingness to serve for LEC office must be declared in writing before the meeting at which nominations are solicited

• amended the Administrative Manual to permit greater flexibility in budgeting for ALPA’s Leadership Training Conference;

• amended the Administrative Manual to clarify an MEC’s authority to restore a member’s revoked Intranet privileges;

• amended the Administrative Manual to address income tax liability incurred by LEC officers and committee members in conjunction with ALPA-paid expenses or per diem;

• directed the Executive Air Safety Chairman to work with the FAA, Transport Canada, and IFALPA to get a mandate that predictive windshear equipment be installed on all certificated air carrier airplanes and that an updated windshear avoidance training program be developed;

• directed that ALPA negotiators work to obtain contract language to release Association volunteers from flight duty to take part in accident investigations and safety work, and that the negotiators try to obtain company-paid flight pay loss and expenses for these activities;

• directed that the Association as a whole bear the cost of printing and bulk shipping to requesting MECs all versions of Flying the Line for first-time active members; and

• directed that the services of the International Pilot Services Corporation (IPSC) be continued—Ana McAhron-Schulz, director of the Economic and Financial Analysis Department, reported that, during the past year, the IPSC conducted approximately $300,000 worth of work for foreign pilot groups, most recently for the Association of Star Alliance Pilots, the Wings Pilots Coalition, and Sabena pilots.