Voting for Your Career

By Capt. Duane Woerth, ALPA President
Air Line Pilot, June/July 2004, p.4

On May 25, the ALPA Executive Board voted unanimously to endorse Sen. John Kerry for the office of President of the United States. I wholeheartedly supported that endorsement and will work tirelessly to help him win what will be an incredibly competitive election fight.

In my April “Decision Point,” I highlighted ALPA’s Mission Statement and its charge to your representatives to do everything we can to protect your jobs, defend your profession, and improve your futures. The record, agenda, and personal character of John Kerry give us great hope that, with him in the White House, we can advance all three of these core goals.

John Kerry has been a warrior for the labor movement throughout his 20-year career in the U.S. Senate. His record goes back to the final days of Eastern Airlines, when he voted to establish a Blue Ribbon Panel to review the situation, a measure President George H.W. Bush quickly vetoed. Sen. Kerry has consistently supported ALPA’s position on our biggest issues: He opposed the so-called baseball-style final-offer binding arbitration legislation; he took a leading role in seeking whistleblower protection for airline employees; he voted against burdensome reporting requirements for labor unions; and he fought to ban the use of permanent replacement workers during labor strikes.

Since the tragic events of 9/11, he has fought for legislation to improve airline security and the financial health of the U.S. airline industry--including the airline assistance and loan guarantee programs, FFDO legislation, enhanced cargo security and passenger baggage screening, and expanded unemployment benefits for furloughed pilots. ALPA’s Executive Board was especially impressed with Sen. Kerry’s pledge to protect our foreign cabotage laws and prevent foreign control of our airlines.

This election isn’t just a matter of who is better on our issues. It’s a matter of finding an alternative to what, for our profession, can only be termed four disastrous years. The record clearly shows that President George W. Bush’s administration has made opposing unions--and airlines--a central tenet of its agenda. He has shown disregard for the fate of our industry and believes that bankruptcies and liquidations are the ultimate solution to our problems.

Bush’s record includes constant threats of presidential emergency boards and a “no strike” policy in our industry; opposition to FFDOs; unilateral implementation of a new FAA rule revoking airman certificates of those whom the TSA considers to be “security risks,” and 15 months of bitter resistance to ALPA’s efforts to secure pension-relief legislation. He signed the pension bill only in the face of overwhelming, bipartisan congressional support.

Bush’s administration has overburdened airlines with security user taxes and recently moved to impose an additional $435 million in taxes on the airlines for security. The administration placed politics over safety when it attempted to remove FAA air traffic controllers and replace them with part-time contract employees. Recently, his people unleashed onerous new reporting rules for unions. President Bush’s record adds up to an unending string of actions that have hurt airline pilots, other working Americans, and the unions that represent them.

Despite our endorsement, I know that many of you will vote for President Bush for reasons that are important to you--and I respect your decision. Some of you will even contact your ALPA representatives to express your opposition to this endorsement--and I respect that. Nothing is more valuable than principled dissent.

One issue that comes up time and again as I travel around our union is how important our members view national security in this time of terror. I can only offer my personal opinion that Sen. Kerry will be a faithful steward of our nation’s defense. Unlike many of his generation, John Kerry knows the pain and hardship of war firsthand--and he knows the sting of battle.

ALPA has an important role to play in this election, and we will have a strong voice in a Kerry administration--which is our best guarantee for a safer, stronger, brighter future. The most dangerous enemy of democracy is apathy. The same can be said for the piloting profession. Your elected union leaders’ vote to endorse John Kerry represents their collective judgment on how to best protect and defend our careers. Democracy is not a spectator sport: For your career, get in the game.

s/Duane E. Woerth