Alaska Pilots Kick Off Negotiations

More than 250 Alaska pilots and family membersjoined by ALPA-represented pilots from other airlines, as well as ALPA’s new president, Capt. John Pratercame together on a rainy NFL playoff Sunday this weekend to show support for the Alaska pilots’ negotiators and to kick off the new Alaska MEC Family Awareness Committee.

Negotiations for the Alaska pilots’ contract, which becomes amendable on May 1, began this morning. This will be the first time in nearly 30 years that the Alaska pilot group will work toward a new contract without a clause that sent past unresolved negotiations issues to binding arbitration.

“Very significantly,” Negotiating Committee chairman, First Officer Paul Stuart, told rally attendees, “this means you will have the final say on the contents of the next contract because it absolutely will be subject to member ratification.”

In May 2005, Alaska Airlines’ management affirmed an arbitrators’ decision that reduced pilot pay by as much as 34 percent, doling out the largest cuts to the most junior pilots.

While the hope always is to reach a new contract quickly, expediency won’t be sacrificed for quality, the MEC chairman, Capt. Tom Crank, said.

“We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our quality of life to regain the compensation, quality of life, and retirement security we have worked so hard to earn. Enough is enough,” he said, receiving cheers from the pilots and families.

“There will be no more concessions,” Prater affirmed. “Together, we are taking back the profession. You will not go the road alone.”

Demonstrating his point were pilots from Champion, Mesa, and Northwest, and Teamster pilots from Alaska Airlines’ sister airline Horizon Air, who came to show their support for the Alaska negotiations.

While pilots and their families listened and cheered along with speakers, the sounds of children playing in the back of the room reminded participants that the rally also was about family.

“I believe it’s important that all of our family members feel welcome, get involved, and stay connected to this union and to what is going on,” said Family Awareness co-chair Terri Ferguson, whose husband, Bob, is an Alaska captain. “We all need to be committed for the long haul, and we need to stick together and stay informed and involved. That is how we’re going to succeed.”