Our Union: Back to Basics

By: Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA President

Ironclad pilot unity, a strong pattern to bargain against, and companies’ clear ability to pay—these are factors essential to pilots’ success in bargaining. For many ALPA pilot groups, these basics are solidly aligned—and our union is keeping up the pressure on management to reach a fair agreement.

At U.S. airlines such as Delta, United, FedEx Express, and American, pilots have established a strong, positive bargaining pattern. While these contracts contain significant gains, the leaders at these pilot groups continue to seize every opportunity to make additional improvements.

This positive pattern set by the largest airlines also strengthens bargaining for pilots at other airlines such as Alaska/Virgin America, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit, and WestJet. At each of these properties, ALPA is looking at all avenues to achieve a contract.

ALPA pilots are visible everywhere—at rallies, on the informational picket lines, in the news media, and on social channels—to show that we are indivisible in pursuing market-rate contracts and responding to the latest developments at our companies and in the industry.

For example, Air Wisconsin management announced in February a new capacity purchase agreement with United. Air Wisconsin is offering its pilots a flow-up agreement but has not yet released the all-important details.

The Alaska and Virgin America Master Executive Councils (MECs) submitted their final arbitration positions and are now looking to the next step in the process. The pilots stand together in sending the message that “this merger won’t fly without the pilots on board.”

ExpressJet announced changes to its strategic plan this summer that include a new capacity purchase agreement with United and an expanded partnership with American while transitioning out of Delta altogether. Despite the disruption, the Atlantic Southeast and ExpressJet MEC leaders have stood together to address the change in flying confronting their members.

At Air Transport International, about 26 issues focusing on scheduling, retirement, and compensation remain open in contract negotiations. While both sides are talking, it appears that the awaited mediation dates may be required to reach agreement.

The Frontier MEC voted unanimously to conduct a strike-authorization ballot that opened on August 22 and will close as this issue goes to press.

In July, JetBlue pilots requested mediation from the National Mediation Board to assist with negotiating their first contract since organizing as a union in 2014.

Leaders of the Spirit pilot group voted unanimously to send a strike-authorization ballot to their 1,600 members. The vote opened on August 21 and will close as this issue goes to press.

At WestJet, the pilots’ first round of bargaining is set to begin on September 11, and management appears ready to get to the table. WestJet pilots have worked hard in their membership drive and are currently at 90 percent membership.

While each of these pilot groups makes their own decisions on bargaining, they all receive the unequivocal support of their union’s expertise and resources. Just as airlines pay market rates for gates, aircraft, and fuel, ALPA maintains that they must also pay market-appropriate compensation to the pilots who have built the airline and contribute to its safety and success every day.

And speaking of safety, ALPA is continuing to make clear that first officer experience, training, and qualification requirements must remain in place as Congress revisits reauthorizing the FAA before the current authorization expires on September 30. Look for ALPA’s newest Keep Flying Safe ads on your favorite social media platform.

Every individual pilot action is important; together, our actions show that ALPA members mean business—and getting to a market-rate contract for pilots is good business for companies, investors, passengers, shippers, and all who depend on air transportation.