F/O Andrew Jones, left, and Capt. Jose Velasquez in the cockpit of an Amerijet B-767-300.
In late October 2020, the National Mediation Board (NMB) certified ALPA as the bargaining representative for the 134 pilots of Amerijet International Airlines.
The new, single-council pilot group is represented by Capt. Tim Millar, temporary Master Executive Council (MEC) chair and captain representative; F/O Andrew Jones, temporary MEC vice chair and first officer representative; and Capt. Jose Velasquez, temporary MEC secretary-treasurer. The trio spearheaded the grassroots effort to certify ALPA on the property to replace the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Capt. Steve Mathis, who has prior ALPA experience as an MEC member, is supporting the temporary representatives as the executive administrator.
According to the NMB, of the Amerijet pilots who voted, nearly 84 percent voted in favor of ALPA representation. “This is a very pivotal time for both Amerijet and the air-cargo industry as a whole. While many changes were taking place within the ranks of our management, we felt it best to make a change with our representation as well,” said Millar. “When we resume Section 6 negotiations, we’ll have the support of ALPA and its vast resources at our disposal,” he added.
The current collective bargaining agreement became amendable this past December. Section 6 opening letters were exchanged before ALPA certification, although negotiations hadn’t begun due to the pandemic. “This fresh start to negotiations will hopefully reset a relationship between the pilots and management that wasn’t always the best under the previous representation,” observed Millar.
The current collective bargaining agreement was ratified when Amerijet flew B-727s to transport cargo out and back between Miami, Fla., and all islands in the Caribbean. “This contract doesn’t account for the airline’s new business model of flying B-767-200s/-300s that now includes operating as an ACMI carrier for DHL and the U.S. Postal Service and flying that includes overnight trips to Europe and South America,” Jones remarked.
The temporary MEC officers also plan to capitalize on the momentum of the newly certified ALPA representation and Amerijet’s appointment of a new chief executive officer, Tim Strauss, to create a more collaborative work environment.
“Our new CEO has been receptive to our desire to collaborate and work together to fix the challenges at the airline to provide the platform necessary for continued growth,” said Jones.
“The COVID-19 crisis has definitely shaped our new business model, and Amerijet plans to grow exponentially during the coming months,” said Velasquez, adding that the company has a plan to double the fleet and hire more than 200 pilots to accommodate demand.
According to Jones, Amerijet is 40–50 pilots short of what’s needed to adequately cover the flying it’s picked up since January 2020. “Even though December is a peak time for cargo flying,” he added, with the recent ALPA certification, “we finally felt like we were in a much better position to negotiate for a new contract that provides the work rules and pay that compensate our pilots for the work they’re doing now, not the work they were doing.”
Since ALPA was certified as the representative of the Amerijet pilots, Millar, Jones, and Velasquez have begun their introduction to all things ALPA via virtual meetings with the Association’s Representation, Economic & Financial Analysis, and Communications Departments staff, coupled with a general overview of ALPA’s services during a webinar hosted by Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary. Preparations for Section 6 negotiations have begun, a pilot survey is being developed, new logos and graphics have been produced, and the pilot group’s website is in the final stages of production.
While Jones, Velasquez, and a significant number of junior pilots have previous ALPA experience from when they flew for other carriers, Jones noted that prior to ALPA’s certification as the exclusive bargaining representative, many of the more senior pilots only knew about the Teamsters’ style of representation and “didn’t know what a pilot-focused and pilot-driven union can do or the resources that ALPA brings to the table.”