Inside ALPA’s Family Assistance Working Group

By Kevin Cuddihy, Contributing Writer
Capt. Alison Britton (Delta) is the chair of ALPA’s Family Assistance Working Group, which was stood up in August 2022.

ALPA stood up the Family Assistance Working Group during the Executive Council meeting in August 2022 to study and address the increasing needs of Association members in their family lives. Air Line Pilot recently spoke with Capt. Alison Britton (Delta), the working group’s chair, to learn more about the group’s important work.

Air Line Pilot: Why was the Family Assistance Working Group created and how is the group structured?

Capt. Alison Britton: The Delta Master Executive Council (MEC) brought a resolution to ALPA’s Executive Council that resulted in the creation of our group. The resolution recognized that family issues and work-life balance are of growing concern, especially with the changing demographics of ALPA pilots (see “The Landing” in the January–February 2024 issue). More and more in today’s world, everyone’s a caregiver in some way.

Many ALPA pilots are caregivers to spouses, elderly parents, and young children, and pilots’ schedules, along with contractual policies, aren’t flexible when it comes to a pilot’s caregiving needs. In addition, our female pilots have their own unique challenges that affect recruitment and retention.

The working group exists within the Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Committee under the Professional Development Group and includes 15 pilot volunteers from nine different pilot groups, plus staff support from ALPA’s Retirement & Insurance, Government Affairs, Legal, and Strategic Member Development & Resources Departments.

Our pilot volunteers bring their unique experience to the group as chairs of family and peer support committees within their own MECs. We also have pilot volunteers who are subject-matter experts on one or more of the topics that we cover. ALPA staff members are also vital, as they provide expertise within their various departments to support our mission.

Air Line Pilot: Tell us a little bit about you and your background and experience.

Britton: I first started volunteering after my second pregnancy. I had the horrible experience of having my health insurance costs skyrocket while I was on leave due to losing my company insurance and having to pay COBRA rates. Then after childbirth, I was struggling to produce enough milk for my infant due to the challenges of my work schedule.

I didn’t want anyone to go through the same experience and struggles that I went through, so I connected with two other women who faced similar challenges. Together, we founded a mentoring committee specifically geared toward pilots before, during, and after pregnancy. We advocated for policy changes and created a manual to guide pilots throughout the maternity process. That manual gained the attention of many in the aviation industry, from NASA to several U.S. airlines.

When I was at a Women in Aviation International conference speaking on a panel, I connected with a Delta pilot who was working on standing up a Family Support Committee at the airline. Several years later when I was hired by Delta, we reconnected. I quickly started volunteering as a maternity mentor for Delta’s Pilot Family Matters Committee. A year into my volunteer work, I was selected as vice chair of the committee. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed chair. Our committee worked on advocating and providing supporting data during contract negotiations in an effort to achieve significant contractual improvements to maternity and parental leave policies.

As the Family Assistance Working Group chair, I’m drawing on my experience standing up new committees and utilizing resources to advocate for pilots’ family needs, as well as sharing my knowledge of family assistance subject matters with ALPA.

Air Line Pilot: What is the group’s focus and purpose?

Britton: The group focuses on three main areas:

  1. Fostering a workplace culture that allows for family work-life balance,
  2. Recommending policy language for companies to provide paid family leave and support programs, and
  3. Advocating for increased company awareness of the critical role families have in their employees’ lives in order to improve pilot recruitment and retention.

Every ALPA member has a family, and what this family looks like varies among members. However, the need for equitable policies and support remains constant for all, and the group is working to provide resources for our members to take care of themselves and their families.

Air Line Pilot: What is the group currently working on?

Britton: Our working group’s strategic plan is composed of three main goals, and those goals drive our actions going forward.

Goal 1: Build awareness of the ALPA Family Assistance Working Group. One of our objectives is to create a resource for ALPA MECs and members. We’re working to accomplish this through monthly FastRead articles, social media campaigns, and articles such as this.

Goal 2: Encourage family-leave policies for ALPA-represented pilots. Another priority is advocating for benefits, policies, and practices that prioritize family life and well-being. The group is currently collecting data from all ALPA pilot groups to get a broader picture of what our members both have and need regarding benefits and policies. After gathering information, we’ll present our data to MECs for use in negotiations.

Goal 3: Support and advocate for federal, state, city, and municipal legislation that bolsters family- and parental-friendly policies to benefit ALPA members. We’re currently collecting sick and kin care data from the 30 states where ALPA pilots are based. Working with ALPA’s Government Affairs and Legal Departments, our aim is to advocate for improvements or changes to legislation and to implement new laws.

In addition, we’ve been emphasizing and sharing ALPA’s Air Pump Act Call to Action, which supports legislation to provide federal labor protections for working mothers who are flightcrew members and need to express breast milk at work.

Air Line Pilot: What resources does the working group provide?

Britton: At this time, our main resource is the Family Assistance webpage on ALPA’s website (see “Family Assistance Resources” below). We’re working on updating and improving the webpage to provide a more robust resource to better educate and support our members and our MECs.

Family Assistance Resources

ALPA members can visit ALPA’s Family Assistance Working Group webpage to e-mail the group, get contact information for your pilot group’s family committee, or read more about a variety of family assistance topics, including

  •  Adoption,
  •  Breastfeeding,
  •  Caring for a sick family member,
  •  Childcare,
  •  Choosing a licensed counselor or therapist,
  •  Death in the family,
  •  Divorce,
  •  Eldercare,
  •  Family Medical Leave Act,
  •  Family member with substance use disorder/addiction,
  •  Mental health,
  •  LGBTQIA+ family members,
  •  Marriage and domestic partner
  •  Pregnancy and postpartum, and
  •  State sick leave.

More information and more topics will be added as the group continues its work.

This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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