Translating Mission To Action

By Captain Duane Woerth, ALPA President
Air Line Pilot, April 2004, p.5

"When I accepted the responsibility of the office of the President of this Association, I agreed to focus all of my thoughts and decisions on fulfilling the ALPA mission statement (printed on opposite page). This has been no easy task.

In just a few short years, nearly every aspect of that statement—safety, collective bargaining, health and welfare, and rights and privileges of the piloting profession—has been threatened. Nonetheless, with the full support of our outstanding elected leaders and with the tireless efforts of countless pilot volunteers and our staff, we have survived and, in some cases, thrived in adversity.

These days, not hearing and thinking about the upcoming U.S. national elections in November is next to impossible. Many of the issues that the candidates are debating hit close to home for the interests of ALPA and, at least in my case, to the mandate I accepted when I became your president.

The major issues facing our profession today play out primarily in the political arena. We are all well aware of the recent actions of a single senator to pass an amendment opening the door to foreign cargo cabotage through Alaska, an amendment that the current U.S. president quickly signed into law.

We are well aware of ALPA’s recent efforts to get a pension reform provision passed through Congress—an effort that the White House has opposed at every turn. Most of you are also aware of the political efforts to expand union financial reporting requirements exponentially—far beyond what is asked of corporations. Is producing an annual 30,000-page report worth $1 million of your ALPA dues?

Other issues yet to play out include the ongoing fight over healthcare costs, the never-ending struggle to guarantee collective bargaining rights for all workers, the administration’s recent push to exchange foreign cabotage rights with Canada, as well as the full array of issues, such as cabotage, foreign ownership and control, foreign wetlease, and flags of convenience, affected by U.S.-EU negotiations. This is a pivotal moment for our profession.

You charge your ALPA leaders to protect your welfare, your employment, your safety. To allow other considerations to enter into our political recommendations is a mistake we cannot afford to make—taking your future for granted. That is why, in the coming months, I will be working with my fellow National Officers and your pilot group leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to articulating our issues and ensuring that we know where each viable candidate for President stands on them.

We will ask the Bush administration why pilots should trust an administration that started its term by publicly opposing all airline strikes. We will ask why we should trust an administration that opposed the first and second airline aid bills after the devastation of 9/11, and why it interfered in the loan guarantee process and opposed providing needed assistance for our carriers. We will ask why this administration fought us on guns in airline cockpits, pension reform, cabotage protections, and even the reorganization of aviation security.

And rest assured that we will ask these same questions of the candidate who represents the Democratic party in the race for the White House. We will make that candidate explain his intentions regarding our agenda—and we will examine his record on ALPA’s issues and other labor-related issues. I cannot tell you now where that process will take me, and us, but I pledge to you that I will do my utmost to lead this Association forward and ensure that the mission statement you handed me remains my battle cry. I cannot fulfill my duty by avoiding politics.

Following ALPA’s mission statement, your union leaders must focus on the issues that matter to us in our work lives—and make our recommendations based on that charge alone. We look forward to this process and ask only for your willingness to listen first and then decide.

I add, for those who might raise the issue, that each member of this union—as a citizen—has a different duty. That duty is to look at the candidates and measure their positions on the full sweep of issues that matter to you—and to cast your vote accordingly. I would never want it otherwise. Like thousands of you, I served my country proudly to protect that fundamental right.

s/Duane E. Woerth