Seminar Helps New United MEC ‘Hit the Ground Running’

By Dave Kelly, ALPA Senior Communications Specialist
Air Line Pilot,
January 2004, p.23

With a 2-month transition period between election and assuming office, the United pilots’ newly elected Master Executive Council chairman, Capt. Mark Bathurst, wanted the new MEC officers to use that time to establish a strategic plan to set the course for the next MEC administration. He was determined to "hit the ground running" when the new MEC leadership assumed office on January 1.

Capt. Bathurst, Capt. Wendy Morse, vice-chairman, and First Officer Mike Hamilton, secretary/treasurer, took advantage of that time by participating in an MEC Officer Strategic Planning Seminar that ALPA International offered in Herndon, Va. Captain Mark Seal (United), ALPA executive vice-president, and United MEC Communications Committee officers, Capts. Steve Derebey, chairman, and Herb Hunter, vice-chairman, along with Bob Nichols, staff coordinator, and Dave Kelly, senior communications specialist, also attended the sessions.

As a result of the 3-day seminar, the new team entered office focused and ready to go.

"The sessions were extremely useful for several reasons," says Capt. Bathurst, who has served his fellow pilots in a number of ALPA capacities during his 25-year career as an airline pilot. "First, it was an opportunity for those attending to develop our strategic plan to be presented to the MEC for both the near term and the longer term. Second, the participants had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with ALPA’s international officers and department directors and our outside advisors, discussing issues common to all ALPA pilots and to listen to the various perspectives on those issues."

ALPA Communications Director Don Skiados moderated the 3 days of discussions and planning, which led the MEC officers and Communications Committee to determine major goals and prioritize initiatives designed to protect and enhance the careers of United pilots. Among the initiatives are those that would accomplish the following goals:

• maintaining a high level of safety,

• openly and actively communicating with and educating the United pilots,

•  vigorously enforcing the collective bargaining agreement,

• protecting pilots’ pension and retirement benefits (especially during United’s exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy), and

• effectively providing services to members.

"It was an excellent opportunity for our MEC team to begin the dialogue on how best to do the business of the pilots, to map out lines of communications within the MEC office, with the MEC, and most importantly, with the pilots we represent," says Capt. Bathurst. "Overall, it was a very focused, productive three-day session."

Capt. Morse, who also has served her fellow pilots in a number of capacities during her United career, found the sessions helpful and a good way to focus on the tasks that awaited the new MEC administration.

"I was highly impressed with the talent we have in ALPA’s Herndon offices, especially in the area of communications," says Capt. Morse, who was the United MEC’s Negotiating Committee chairman before being elected MEC vice-chairman in October 2003. "I found the sessions invigorating and energizing, and they helped us all learn how to plan and work together to represent the needs and interests of our pilots."

"The time we spent in Herndon with the ALPA staff and our advisors really helped us prioritize what we felt was important," adds First Officer Hamilton, "and it helped us set timelines to accomplish both near- and long-term goals. Stepping into officer positions for a pilot group the size of United’s can be a daunting proposition. These three days helped us focus on our strategy going forward as we come closer to exiting bankruptcy."

The 3-day session in Herndon was geared toward developing ways to serve the pilots during unprecedented trying times for United Airlines and the airline industry. The strategic plan discussed at the seminar calls for the United MEC to conduct advanced planning with regard to areas in which United pilots would like to see improvements to the collective bargaining agreement, if the opportunity presents itself during the life of the current contract.