Captain Prater’s Labor Day Message

This Labor Day, September 1, 2008, we line pilots should pause to pay tribute to those early men and women who struggled to breathe life into the rights of the working-class Canadians and Americans. It’s easy to dismiss the holiday as an ancient rite that conveniently marks the end of summer, as so much has changed since its inception in the late 1800s. But what has really changed? Perhaps not so much—we still battle insatiable managements, work unnecessarily long days, and suffer under government regulations that are out of date, out of touch, or both.

More than 100 years after its birth, the premise behind Labor Day remains the same: steady employment should never come at the cost of a decent quality of life or excessive compromise.

But, will we simply honor our founders by merely remembering their deeds, efforts, and contributions? The answer for this union is a resounding NO! We will not sit idly by expecting others to carry on the work of the founders of the labor movement. We will fiercely continue engaging in the struggle to achieve a better way of life for our members and for our fellow citizens.

Let me give you just a few recent examples.

Our brothers and sisters at Delta and Northwest ensured they would receive their financial returns on their corporate merger by recently ratifying their Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement. This action marked the first time that two pilot groups proactively secured a CBA before a merger is completed.

Meanwhile, pilots at United Airlines are calling for the resignation of the company’s CEO, Glenn Tilton, stating that his lack of leadership has landed the airline at the bottom of nearly every performance and customer satisfaction category.

Demonstrating that pilots won’t just “settle” when thrown a bone, Mesa pilot leaders—after eight months of negotiations—rejected a tentative collective bargaining agreement with management that left too many unanswered questions.

The classic Labor Day fable can be found in the proposed agreement between DHL and UPS, which would give all of DHL's air cargo operations to UPS. This would effectively destroy ASTAR Air Cargo and Airborne Express—two companies with deep roots in Ohio, not to mention the 10,000 American workers who will lose their jobs, possibly turning several communities in southern Ohio into ghost towns. As well, our fellow members and leaders at Spirit, Midwest, Pinnacle, Alaska, and Continental are deep in the fight for their contracts and careers.

I ask you, is that behavior indicative of celebrating working America? Absolutely not! It is our job; no, it is our duty, it is our responsibility to expose those who choose to blatantly ignore the rights of the least one among us. As natural leaders, we airline pilots, elected ALPA representatives, must be at the forefront of the fight to preserve not only the dignity, but the strong existence, of trade unions. You are labor. We are labor. ALPA is labor. ALPA remains a leading labor union because of you—our pilot Board of Directors. Your efforts in spearheading today’s battles for improving workers’ rights, your members’ rights, contracts, and quality of life does not go unnoticed in the halls of the AFL-CIO, Congress, and the White House.

So, on Labor Day, we not only celebrate the humble beginnings of the labor movement, I want to thank each of you—our Board of Directors. Thanks to your continued professionalism, your vigilance, and your dedication, flying remains the safest mode of transportation in the world, and our profession is still a noble calling. And that includes being a representative of the Air Line Pilots Association, International.

Fly safe, and have a very good Labor Day holiday.