March 14, 2008
Airline Pilot Leaders Discuss Job and Career
ALPA-hosted St. Louis meeting shines spotlight on Trans States management
ST. LOUIS – Elected leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), joined by leaders of 12 ALPA pilot groups, met to discuss strategies for protecting jobs and building careers at regional airlines. The pilots represented provide most of the domestic passenger feed for North America’s major network carriers (Air Canada, American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways).
“Airline pilots are thinking in new and creative ways,” said ALPA President Capt. John Prater. “This summit brought together a generation of pilot leaders who are planning to raise the bar for pilots across all segments of our industry.”
The meeting was held in the backyard of Trans States Airlines (TSA), home of one of the most adversarial management groups. Pilots at TSA have been in negotiations for more than two years without a deal. They are now negotiating with the assistance of a National Mediation Board (NMB) mediator.
“This meeting showed that we are on the tip of the spear in an industry-wide fight for our futures,” said TSA pilot group chairman Capt. Jason Ruszin. “The pledges of support we received from our fellow pilot groups will strengthen our resolve to bargain for a fair contract.”
Contract negotiations with TSA management began in February 2006. The two sides tentatively agreed to three sections in the first month of negotiations, setting a pace the pilots hoped would continue. However, since that time, only 11 additional sections of the contract have been tentatively agreed to. The NMB assigned mediator Jack Kane in December 2006. Management has been asking the pilots to make concessions, failing to treat the current agreement as the floor.
“Management wants a zero-sum gain,” continued Ruszin. “If we ask for improvements here, they want to take from us there. This is not acceptable to this pilot group. We are as professional as any other pilot group and we deserve the same pay and benefits as well.”
According to 2008 Wilson Center polling, 86 percent of the pilots who responded are committed to striking if necessary, 89 percent rated their union leaders’ performance as good, and 94 percent are confident in their union leaders.
“As a segment of the industry, we are working toward a long-term goal,” said Capt. Tom Wychor, former chairman of the Mesaba pilot group and an organizer of the meeting, “and that goal is to work within airline brands and across corporate lines to create harmonized contract standards.”
“We will be patient, but persistent,” added Atlantic Southeast Airlines pilot group chairman Capt. Dave Nieuwenhuis. His pilots spent more than five years working to bargain what ultimately became a progressive contract. “We proved what pilots can do when we commit to win—and are willing to work together.”
The summit brought together representatives of tens of thousands of airline pilots. The airlines whose elected pilot leaders attended included Air Canada Jazz, American Eagle, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Champion, Comair, Express Jet, Mesa Air Group, Mesaba, Piedmont, Pinnacle, PSA, and Trans States Airlines. Pilots from mainline carriers were on hand as well, including from Alaska Airlines, Continental, FedEx, Northwest, United, and US Airways.
The pilot leaders are planning to meet several more times in the near future to continue coordinating their negotiations and support activities. Recent progressive contracts at several ALPA properties will serve as examples for other groups to follow.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 61,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit: www.alpa.org.
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ALPA Contacts: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703/481-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org