Release #06.053
September 14, 2006

ALPA Grants $4 Million to Bolster Mesaba, Comair Pilots

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The union representing pilots at Comair and Mesaba airlines has authorized a $2 million fund for each pilot group, to bolster their efforts to achieve fair and equitable labor contracts with their respective managements.

“Our union is resisting a protracted and deliberate campaign to whipsaw pilots by playing them off against each other using bankruptcy courts and ‘request for proposal’ mechanisms to perpetuate the fee-for-departure business model,” said Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA).

“These corporate maneuvers affect virtually every working pilot. By pledging $2 million to each pilot group, we are putting the industry on notice that we are in this fight to win. We will give our pilots the resources they need to stand up to these divisive tactics,” Woerth said.

The action came at a meeting of the union’s Executive Board on Tuesday. ALPA maintains a robust Major Contingency Fund to respond to extraordinary events and situations that threaten the airline pilot profession. These funds will be used for strike preparedness, communications, and family awareness activities.

In the case of Mesaba, the latest allocation is in addition to a previous grant of $2 million to back up the pilot group, which faces a management ploy to use bankruptcy law to impose draconian pay cuts.

“Proposals that would literally pay poverty wages even as our airline upstreams tens of millions of dollars to its holding company are absolutely unacceptable,” said Capt. Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba unit of ALPA. “We will not agree to such terms, and with the backing of our national union, we will not accept anything less than a fair and equitable contract.”

Capt. J.C. Lawson, chairman of the Comair pilots’ unit, said that “Management is under the illusion that it can force us to make hasty, ill-advised decisions. They seem to forget that these are the same pilots who persevered through years of negotiations, and eventually, a strike in 2001. Another work stoppage is the last thing we want, but we’re not going to just fold our cards and give in, either. ALPA has given us the staying power to achieve our goals and we intend to use it.”

Noting the standing ovation that the Executive Board gave when the new and highly progressive tentative agreement for FedEx Express pilots was announced, Woerth said, “We have reached a point in our economic recovery where we are no longer completely driven by the disastrous tidal waves that engulfed our industry for the past five years.

“Management can no longer plead helplessness and poverty as justification for making outrageous demands at the table. Airline workers paid a terrible price to keep this industry afloat, but now it is time to draw a line beyond which we will not be pushed,” Woerth continued. “The pilots at Mesaba and Comair have the desire and the resolve to stand up to predatory management tactics. Now they have the means to do so, too.”

ALPA represents 61,000 airline pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its website is at

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ALPA CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, Jeff Orschel at 703/481-4440