NEVER FORGET, NEVER QUIT
ALPA’s highest governing body meets to elect a new Executive Council
and review the union’s checklist for the future.
By Gary DiNunno, Editor-in-Chief
Air Line Pilot, January 2005, p.23
As the delegates to ALPA’s 40th regular Board of Directors meeting entered the ballroom of the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., on the opening day of the biennial session, they faced giant screens on either side of the room with the theme and logo for this gathering, an image of five, uniformed ALPA members in front of mail-pilot icon Bill Hopson with the words, "Never Forget, Never Quit." The theme of this gathering and ALPA strategy for the next few years is to never forget the Association’s history and those who fought and some who died to create ALPA, and to never quit the fight for the future of airline pilots who will follow. The theme resounded throughout the union officers’ opening reports and a special video presentation that began the meeting.
The delegates paused for a moment of silence to remember colleagues who had died since the last BOD meeting, including the Oct. 14, 2004, fatalities on the line of two Pinnacle pilots: Capt. Jesse Rhodes and First Officer Peter Cesarz. Later in the week, the BOD members and other pilots, family, and staff in the hall collected more than $7,800 to start a memorial fund for the two pilots’ families.
The BOD’s first order of business was to hear reports from ALPA’s officers (the full text of the reports and PowerPoint presentations is available on the ALPA member-only website, crewroom.alpa.org).
ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, told the meeting participants that "every generation of airline pilots has had to stare down their moment of truth--that point in time, that crisis, that seemed to suggest that the profession was about to implode. Each generation has risen to the challenge. ALPA’s leadership never forgot, they never quit--and because they didn’t, ALPA’s membership followed them to [success]."
Capt. Woerth asked if today’s airline pilots have the right stuff to fight back and regain what they’ve lost; and for those who have not yet earned what they fully deserve, will they give up on their dreams? "I have not the slightest doubt about how this union will respond," he said. "Like those generations who came before us, this generation is never going to forget and it’s never going to quit."
Capt. Woerth warned that ALPA members who have suffered the most pay cuts and furloughs and whose airlines still languish in bankruptcy or teeter on its brink are building leather-tough scar tissue and are already developing new strategies to go back on the offensive at the first opportunity. If managements mistake these tactical retreats for surrender, they’re in for a gigantic surprise.
"In the twilight of 2004," he said, "when the word ‘legacy’ has been contorted into a slur, when carpetbagger managements squander world-class airline franchises, when every pilot’s worth is calculated by bean counters to be pennies of unit costs, the time has come to return to our roots! to regard every pilot who wears ALPA wings as a comrade and ally rather than as a competitor and a threat!
"To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and success of this great and irreplaceable union and the honorable and skilled profession we all share," Capt. Woerth promised. "We will never forget, and we never, never quit!"
First vice-president’s report
Implementation of the TWIC--Transportation Worker Identification Credential--system remains ALPA’s number one security priority, said ALPA’s first vice-president, Capt. Dennis Dolan. "We must and we will continue to vigorously pursue implementation of TWIC. ALPA has worked in concert with other industry stakeholders, such as the Air Transport Association, Airports Council International, etc., to ensure that the implementation of TWIC will be smooth, effective, and efficient. ALPA has also made the case for an electronic identification system to the Canadian government. Work on a similar system of electronic identification known as the Restricted Area Identification Card, or RAIC, system is proceeding there as well.
"The new realities of 9/11 convinced ALPA’s leaders that we must support the FFDO program to ensure that pilots would have the means to defend themselves and their aircraft against the type of attack that occurred on 9/11," Capt. Dolan continued. "ALPA worked very closely with both the House and the Senate in crafting legislation to create the FFDO program, and then worked diligently to get it passed. The legislation as initially passed did not include many of the provisions that ALPA had originally proposed. To remedy this situation, the Association proposed new corrective legislation that has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
"Almost two years ago, ALPA was asked by the Air Transport Association (ATA) to lead a coalition to put together a system for restoring offline jumpseat access," Capt. Dolan reported. "Ultimately, this coalition developed an electronic verification system that satisfied the TSA’s requirements for restoring offline jumpseat access. After many months of testing, we now see the CASS system coming on line. Canada has informed us that it plans to follow the lead of the United States on a system similar to CASS, and ALPA is urging the Canadian government to do so now.
"Two years ago, when I briefed the BOD on security issues," he said, "I stated that there was no cargo security. I’m pleased to state this year that we have made significant strides in cargo security, such as achieving legislation to allow cargo pilots to participate in the FFDO program and the achievement of an enhanced Preferred Shipper program.
"MANPADS has returned as a ‘hot item’ with a couple of missiles fired at airliners, the most recent being an attack on a DHL A300 taking off from Baghdad Airport in late 2003. These incidents caused Congress to propose legislation that would mandate the installation of MANPADS countermeasures on airliners. In response to this effort, ALPA formed a Counter-MANPADS Task Force to analyze the MANPADS threat from a line pilot perspective, as well as to look at the threat from a risk standpoint and make a judgment regarding how best to deal with the threat.
"Looking at the changes that might occur in this industry--foreign ownership, cabotage rights, consolidation--who do you think will have the upper hand on the world stage if these pieces begin to move around?" Capt. Dolan asked. "Because of the depressed economic state of affairs in the airline industry in North America, it won’t be carriers flying the American or Canadian flags on their tails. U.S. and Canadian airlines are at a crossroads. Major issues such as consolidation, liberalization of traffic rights, and changes to foreign ownership laws could be staring us in the face in the very near future.
"What role will we play in all of this?" he asked. "Well, I meant what I said when I told you that our union is the strongest pilots’ union in the world. No one can take away our experience, our professionalism, our expertise, but most of all they can’t take away our spirit. We can handle whatever comes our way. We will do it together--as a union."
ALPA’s vice-president-administration/secretary, Capt. Paul Rice, discussed the Association’s ability to adjust to change by reforming the union’s structure to fit the requirements and interests of members.
He observed that in the 1930s, ALPA represented pilots of five airlines and that all of the carriers "looked about the same" as they had similar missions--deliver the mail and transport a few passengers. ALPA was a captain’s union then. First officers, or co-pilots, as they were then designated, did not have full voting rights in the union and the positions of second officer and professional flight engineer did not yet exist.
Today, ALPA represents some 64,000 airline pilots from 43 airlines throughout North America. Pilot groups range in size from fewer than 50 to more than 9,000 members. ALPA members fly for carriers with very different missions--short-haul, national, international, passenger, all-cargo, supplemental, charter, wet lease, and more. All active ALPA members in good standing have equal voting rights.
Capt. Rice then discussed the high and low points of membership numbers since 1950. He noted that the Association had about 8,000 active members in 1950, a peak of nearly 56,000 in 2001, with a drop to about 50,000 from 2002 to now.
Capt. Rice said the number of apprentice members dropped from about 7,000 in 2001 to a low of 1,500 in 2003. With some increase in airline hiring and some airlines returning furloughed pilots to the line, ALPA has currently about 2,900 apprentice members. The peaks of furloughed pilots in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s were far exceeded with more than 7,100 pilots waiting to be recalled in 2003. That figure had declined in 2004 to about 6,000 pilots. Capt. Rice noted that a greater percentage of members were furloughed in 1984 than during the recent economic downturn.
He said that, unlike many unions in the United States, ALPA has continued to grow over the long term. In addition, ALPA members must continue to reshape their union to meet pilots’ needs in a constantly changing work environment. ALPA members drive such change through their LEC and MEC officials, Capt. Rice observed, and ALPA leaders must consider more structural reform in the near future. The theme of the 1992 BOD was "Welcome to the Evolution," he said, adding that the evolution of ALPA’s structure continues.
"ALPA has come a long way from the days when President Dave Behncke carried in his pocket blank checks already signed by the treasurer to pay ALPA’s bills," ALPA’s vice-president-finance/treasurer, Capt. Chris Beebe, told the delegates.
But this change and growth did not happen overnight, he said. Today’s economic environment is similar to what the union faced in the 1980s. The financial and representational challenges of the 1980s that followed the demise of several large ALPA-represented airlines are with us again as a result of the powerful downward forces being placed on wages, working conditions, pensions, and in some cases, airline survival. During that earlier challenging time, ALPA created the Spending Limit Policy, the Special MEC Reserve Account, or SMRA, and, most importantly, the Major Contingency Fund, or MCF.
Throughout our history, pilots have sought ways to balance resources and expenses. From a peak of $135 million in mid-2002, ALPA’s dues income has steadily declined during the past 2 years, and is forecast to be less than $109 million in 2005. This has led to many changes, including numerous reengineering initiatives.
Looking at the landscape of the U.S., Canadian, and global airline industry, it is obvious that more change is imminent. The outcome of negotiations at several of ALPA’s carriers will have a profound effect on both the international union budget and individual MEC budgets, but ALPA has reengineered and reduced costs in anticipation of the pay cuts and resulting revenue decreases.
The good news, Capt. Beebe said, is that ALPA has the essential tools, dedicated staff, efficient decision-making process, and most of all, the will to survive. "We must continue to build on the foundation our founders established seven decades ago. They carried out their vision with steely determination, and so must we," he said.
Briefings on FAA’s Age 60 rule
The delegates received a briefing about ALPA’s plans to review the union’s current policy on the FAA’s rule that requires Part 121 airlines not to use pilots past age 60. ALPA’s Aeromedical Advisor, Dr. Don Hudson, discussed some of the medical ramifications of changing the current FAA mandatory-retirement rule. He compared some of the differences and similarities among medical examinations and certification requirements for pilots in Asia, Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Capt. Terry McVenes, ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman, discussed safety issues concerning the FAA’s Age 60 rule. He told the BOD delegates that the FAA established the mandatory retirement rule as a safety measure and continues to defend the rule as a safety regulation. The FAA must be shown that the rule is unsafe or that safety is lessened before the agency will consider a change. The FAA will require that safety is maintained or improved if the rule is changed and that any increased risk from the change is mitigated by additional requirements or practices. Capt. McVenes discussed several scientific studies on the Age 60 rule, noting that results have been inconclusive, sometimes contradictory, and subject to questionable methodology or misinterpretation. He concluded that more extensive studies are warranted to ensure proper interpretations of the data if we are to have accurate conclusions.
Retirement and Insurance Department Director Dave Vance provided information about how changing the FAA’s Age 60 rule might affect pension plans. Don Skiados, director of ALPA’s Communications Department, presented a plan to provide information to ALPA’s members about the history of the FAA rule, the debate surrounding Age 60, any retirement benefit gap, and how changing or not changing the rule might affect U.S. airline pilots. Skiados said that the Communications Department had created for members a website and newsletter dedicated to Age 60 issues and will be publishing articles on the subject in Air Line Pilot and other ALPA-wide communication vehicles. Materials on Age 60 will be provided to MEC and LEC newsletters. After the education campaign, ALPA will poll U.S. members to help determine the union’s direction on Age 60.
Executive Vice-President Elections
The BOD delegates separated into election group caucuses to nominate and elect their representatives to ALPA’s Executive Council. Each of the following ALPA members was elected to serve a 2-year term as an executive vice-president:
Continental--Capt. Chris Lynch
Delta--First Officer Michael Geer
FedEx--Capt. Joe Fagone
Northwest--Capt. Darryl Snider
United--Capt. Mark Seal
America West, Comair, ExpressJet, and US Airways--Capt. John Feldvary
Air Wisconsin, Alaska, Aloha, ASTAR, ATA, Atlas, Champion, Gemini, Hawaiian, Independence, Kitty Hawk, Midwest, Pan American, Polar, Pinnacle, PSA, Ryan, Spirit, and Sun Country--Capt. Jay Schnedorf
Atlantic Southeast and American Eagle--Capt. Mike Milofsky
Allegheny, Aloha Island, Mesa Air Group, Mesaba, Piedmont, Ross, Skyway, and Trans States--Capt. Tom Wychor
Air Canada Jazz, Air Transat, Bearskin, Calm Air, Kelowna--Capt. Kent Hardisty
Capt. Woerth, who also serves as chairman of ALPA-PAC, recognized a number of U.S. pilot groups for 100 percent participation of their MEC leaders in ALPA-PAC. (Canadian pilot groups cannot participate in ALPA-PAC.) Specially designed framed certificates were given to MEC officials of 21 pilot groups: Alaska, Aloha, American Eagle, America West, ASTAR, Atlas, Champion, Comair, Continental, Delta, ExpressJet, FedEx, Hawaiian, Kitty Hawk, Mesa Air Group, Mesaba, Midwest, Northwest, Polar Air Cargo, United, and US Airways.
In honoring these MECs, Capt. Woerth congratulated the ALPA leaders for setting an excellent example, adding that they deserve the appreciation of all ALPA members.
Capt. Woerth announced that ALPA-PAC support continues to grow despite the difficulties being experienced by the airline industry and many ALPA pilots. PAC supporters were then on track to contribute more than $1 million by the end of 2004, marking the third year in a row that PAC giving topped the million-dollar mark. United MEC members raised additional PAC contributions at a fundraiser held in conjunction with a reception for meeting participants.
Honorary ALPA membership
In a rare show of recognition for service to ALPA, airline pilots, and the piloting profession, the BOD delegates honored two former Association staff members with Honorary Membership in the union.
Former Representation Department Director Seth Rosen was honored for his vision and planning, which directly contributed to the development of ALPA’s sophistication in and "team approach" to negotiations, along with ALPA’s recognition of the importance of organizing. His knowledge, expertise, and tireless efforts on behalf of ALPA, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations, and pilots around the world led to significant improvements in collective bargaining agreements and advancements in pay and working conditions.
ALPA’s former Engineering and Air Safety Department Director John E. O’Brien was also awarded Honorary Membership. O’Brien served ALPA with distinction as a member of the Engineering and Air Safety Department for 32 years, the last 22 years as Department director. His knowledge, expertise, and unselfish efforts led to significant improvements in aviation safety and security, benefiting the traveling public and ALPA members, and reflecting great credibility on ALPA. These safety and security accomplishments coupled with his unselfish dedication to this Association helped establish ALPA as the worlds’ premier aviation safety organization.
The BOD delegates discussed and took action on several agenda items that had been forwarded from the September Executive Board. Activity reports from several national committees-- including the Collective Bargaining, Education, Human Performance, Jumpseat, Membership, National Security, and Retirement and Insurance Committees--were officially received.
Other actions of ALPA’s BOD include the following:
• Leadership Conference: The BOD delegates received the activity report that the Committee submitted. In addition, the BOD directed that the 2006 Leadership Conference be budgeted for a minimum of $244,042 to allow for a 3-day training session.
• Strategic Planning Committee: Delegates received the Committee’s report and reaffirmed ALPA’s long-standing objective to provide representation for all members of the airline piloting profession in the United States and Canada. The BOD directed ALPA’s President to continue working toward this goal through ongoing discussions and interaction with independent pilot associations and nonrepresented pilot groups. The BOD also reaffirmed ALPA’s goal to enhance airline capacity within the existing U.S. aviation structure through the National Airspace Modernization program.
• Flight Time/Duty Time Committee: BOD delegates received the Committee’s report and, recognizing ALPA’s goal of achieving a worldwide standard for flight time limits that all airline pilots could endorse, approved the Committee’s recommendation to update ALPA’s flight-time/duty-time policy to conform to policy that IFALPA recently established.
• Custodianship (Article XXI): Noting that ALPA’s Constitution and By-Laws provisions for custodianship of MECs or LECs during airline bankruptcies or failures has not been updated since 1984, BOD delegates approved amendments to allow ALPA to also take emergency custodianship of a pilot group "where such action is requested by the MEC or Local Council and deemed necessary to ensure the performance of collective bargaining agreements." The update also provides the custodian authority to "supervise" the last or current MEC or Local Council rather than only to serve in place of their authority.
• Trusteeship (Article XIX): ALPA’s Constitution and By-Laws provisions for placing an MEC, LEC, or individual officer in trusteeship were amended to include as a reason for trusteeship exposing ALPA to "detrimental consequences by engaging in a substantial failure to perform significant legal or representational duties of a bargaining representative." Placing a pilot group or local council in trusteeship requires the approval of ALPA’s President, Executive Council, and/or Executive Board, and the MEC, LEC, or individual officer must be allowed a full Executive Board hearing within 30 days.