Air Line Pilot, January 2001

President's Forum: Unified Goals For 2001

Duane Woerth, ALPA PresidentThis year, we will acknowledge ALPA’s 70th anniversary as a labor union for airline pilots. We certainly owe a large debt to the pilots who carried the ALPA torch in the past—from our pay formulas to our safety regulations, to the standard layout of the cockpit, to the creation of our Major Contingency Fund, and to so much more.

Current ALPA members must ensure that those who come after us inherit a vibrant, dynamic union. To meet that goal, we should return to some of the core premises upon which this union was built. One core premise we hope to regain is to increase our market share—to be the union for airline pilots of the United States and Canada. Pilot unity is the foundation upon which we can protect our profession, strengthen our contracts, and improve aviation safety for passengers and aircrews. I opened the 2000 BOD meeting with a call for pilot unity. I strongly believe that we cannot survive without it.

Whenever we succeed, whether it is in negotiating a safe plan for LAHSO with the FAA, in winning acceptance for the concept of One Level of Safety, in settling grievances, in blocking abhorrent legislation, or in winning industry-leading contracts, we must first have pilot unity.

The formula for our success is simple. When we work together, we win. When pilot unity wanes, we pay a heavy price. Dave Behncke understood this formula. When he founded ALPA in 1931, members had to use code names so they would not be punished for participating in a union. Once ALPA gained strength in numbers, pilots could openly carry a union card.

But no labor victory stays won. We have continually had to fight this same battle. Among the most recent skirmishes was the court battle in which we obtained a ruling reversing Atlas Air’s refusal to continue a profit-sharing plan after its pilots voted to join ALPA. "Pilot Report" has details about this.

We took a big step toward unity when, in mid-December 2000, the Board of the Independent Association of Continental Pilots and ALPA’s Executive Council both approved a proposal to merge the two unions. You can read more about this agreement in an article in this magazine. We are also in discussions with other independent pilot unions about creating a single voice for pilots.

Our immediate goals are clear. We want to continue consolidating the economic and political strength of U.S. and Canadian airline pilots into a force that cannot and will not be ignored. Through the ALPA Scope Committee, we want to expand the career opportunities of regional pilots and, at the same time, provide job security for junior mainline pilots. We want to get the pension reform act passed to raise the salary caps upon which qualified pensions are paid and to raise the 401(k) contribution limits. We want to obtain pensions and 401(k) plans for pilots who do not have them. We need to push for a state-of-the art ATC system. We will use our bipartisan political support to reach out to the new Congress, President, and Administration to ensure that pilots’ careers are protected and enhanced.

Our long-term goals are more general. In short, we want to protect and enhance the legacy that is ALPA so that future pilots can continue to fight for the profession having the support of the best union possible.

s/Duane E. Woerth