ALPA Officer Responsibility

By Capt. Paul Rice, Vice-President-Administration/Secretary
Air Line Pilot, March 2005, p.8

In early February, as this issue goes to press, approximately 70 newly elected master and local executive council officers met in Reston, Va.--near ALPA's Herndon, Va., offices--for initial training to fulfill their new roles as pilot group leaders. This annual training session provides an overview of ALPA's resources, guidelines for conducting meetings and reporting union finances, suggestions for handling stress and managing time, and discussions with key ALPA staff members about ongoing projects, initiatives, and activities at the international union level. The meeting also provides an opportunity for nearly one-third of the Board of Directors members to meet face-to-face for the first time, to get to know some of their colleagues from other airlines, and to connect a face to an ALPA staff member-to someone they might have already telephoned for assistance. 

Those of us who serve as officials of this union are always on duty--as individuals, we always reflect an image of ALPA.

I took this opportunity to discuss with these new officers our responsibilities as ALPA leaders and how they are intertwined with our daily activities. As officers of the LEC, MEC, Executive Council, Board, and/or BOD, our daily activities as ALPA representatives directly affect the entire organization. How we as ALPA officers conduct our daily business, in crewrooms, on the line, in airports, in our ALPA offices, in our corporate offices, and in our neighborhoods and communities has a direct bearing on how other ALPA members--and the general public--view our international union as a whole. Those of us who serve as officials of this union are always on duty--as individuals, we always reflect an image of ALPA. We must remain aware of how we are perceived--whether as a responsible union official and a professional airline pilot or something less than positive that should be improved. And the same holds true for all of ALPA's members. How we interact with passengers when we are flying or commuting, when we are in the airport or the airplane, leaves a lasting impression with a ripple effect beyond the initial encounter.

ALPA's elected officers, especially the local council representatives and officers, are a vital link in this Association. ALPA is a representative democracy. Members elect representatives to present their views and concerns to ALPA's governing bodies for appropriate action. ALPA's LEC and MEC leaders also have a responsibility to serve as the channel to higher governing bodies for issues that concern ALPA members and to serve members by letting them know about those governing bodies' actions and policies.

ALPA officers have a responsibility to lead our members. We have a responsibility to be knowledgeable about important issues that airline pilots, the airline industry, the piloting profession, and our union face. 

I have advised the new Association officers that they are not alone in their efforts to provide ALPA representation to members--that the union's collective strength is at their command. In addition to the legal, legislative, communications, technical, and representation assistance that comes from the Association's professional staff members, I outlined the resources upon which the new officers can draw from ALPA's Membership Services Department when officers need administrative assistance. Ten membership analysts in three teams are assigned to support all of ALPA's pilot groups and members to process applications, provide member credentials, protect member data, maintain member accounts, and address financial requirements. Three insurance analysts market and administer ALPA's member benefit insurance programs. Two balloting and elections staff members help with all LEC nominations and elections, create voter eligibility rosters, and coordinate MEC and BOD balloting. Five council services coordinators provide support for all LEC representatives and officers for planning meetings and gathering and disseminating information. 

Being an active or "casual" ALPA member has an effect on your union. An active ALPA member gives his or her local representatives direction based on the needs of the pilot group, remains informed about the issues, debates and responds to those issues within the local council, ensures that the officers the group elects are acting on behalf of the group's members, and volunteers time and energy in a local council project or effort. A casual ALPA member pays his or her dues, but does not read ALPA publications, does not participate on the local level, lets others set and enact policy, rarely or never goes to crewroom@alpa.org. Members such as this often wonder, "What has ALPA done for me lately?" and never really understand that ALPA's collective strength and ability to protect our profession is directly related to the individual strength and interest of each and every member. 

We no longer have the luxury of being casual members. If you are now involved, I thank you for your service to your fellow members.