District Advocates: Advancing ALPA’s Pilot-Partisan Agenda

By ALPA Staff
From the left, F/O Deepak Sethi (Delta), Capt. Claudia Zapata-Cardone (United), F/O Elliott Semuskie (United), Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), F/O Mark Bomber (United), and Capt. Darren Senior (United) pose for a photo during a Capitol Hill meeting to advance ALPA’s legislative priorities.

One of the most important aspects of being an ALPA advocate is building relationships with members of Congress and their staff. This might sound like a daunting task, because frequently traveling to Washington, D.C., can be time consuming. The Association has good news for pilots who want to help advance ALPA’s pilot-partisan agenda—you don’t have to travel to Washington to do so. Many meetings can be held in your hometown. In fact, one of the most effective ways to start building relationships with your members of Congress is by meeting with them or their staff in your own district.

To help ALPA members learn effective ways to build relationships with members of Congress and better understand the dos and don’ts of advocacy, the Association offers a District Advocate program. Pilots interested in becoming district advocates are provided with training and other resources to help them learn what it takes to be a successful advocate. With a vast membership base and a complex agenda, ALPA relies on these dedicated pilot volunteers to effectively represent its advocacy interests. District advocates play a crucial role in ensuring the rights, safety, and welfare of pilots by advocating for their interests with their members of Congress.

Tip O’Neill, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, liked to use the phrase “all politics is local.” Goal No. 1 for nearly every politician is reelection, and O’Neill was well aware that the path to retaining office was through understanding the needs of his constituents so that he could best represent their interests.

If current members of Congress wish to remain in office, it’s just as imperative that they know their district. That’s why they often seek out ways to engage with their constituents. And establishing a relationship with constituents who are experts on a topic is particularly valuable because a vast majority of those who serve in Washington are generalists. They depend on others to provide perspective and advice on what types of policies are needed and how proposed policy concepts work in the real world.

This is where district advocates come in. The work they put in building relationships with their representative and senators helps position them as go-to experts on aviation policy matters. That’s because most members of Congress recognize that when it comes to important issues such as aviation safety, no one has a more comprehensive understanding of the topic than an airline pilot.

By actively meeting with lawmakers in their districts, attending town hall meetings, and getting to know district office staff, district advocates are well positioned to provide valuable insights and expertise to policy makers on aviation-related matters. Whether it’s advocating for two pilots on the flight deck, addressing foreign competition, or seeking to maintain the highest level of safety, district advocates are at the forefront of driving positive change in their respective congressional districts. They also help educate legislators about the unique challenges faced by pilots and the importance of policies that prioritize safety, fair working standards, and job security.

District advocates serve another crucial role in ALPA’s ability to influence legislative decision-making processes at the federal level. In addition to serving as liaisons between the Association and lawmakers in their district, district advocates act as an important bridge between their district and ALPA’s Government Affairs Department staff.

As the Association’s frontline advocates, they can relay insights regarding where their representative or senators stand on policy or inform ALPA when an official needs information that supports the Association’s position. At the national level, this intel helps put the Association in a position to address the concerns of that member of Congress and potentially garner their support on policy. In this way, district advocates facilitate ALPA’s opportunities to influence the development and implementation of laws and regulations that protect pilots’ rights, enhance safety standards, and promote a thriving aviation industry.

By engaging with members of Congress and participating in the legislative process, district advocates help shape aviation policy and act as an important voice on issues that directly affect the lives and livelihood of pilots. Their dedication and expertise are essential to achieving ALPA’s pilot-partisan objectives and protecting the interests of airline pilots.

Join ALPA’s District Advocate Team

If you want to learn more or are interested in becoming a district advocate, contact Paul Mendelsohn.

This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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