|STRENGTH IN UNITY|
|Airline Pilots Securing Their Future through ALPA|
What Pilots Want
Advocacy survey results are in: safety and contract enforcement top the list.
Air Line Pilot, June/July 2005, p.34
Between February and April 2005, two studies were conducted among ALPA pilots to gauge pilots’ views on future ALPA priorities.
The first study, on what pilots think their union should be doing, was conducted between February 14 and March 14, 2005 using ALPA’s new web survey provider. This first-ever ALPA membership web survey drew responses from 13,333 ALPA pilots, with a resulting response rate of 22 percent.
The Wilson Center for Public Research, ALPA’s polling consultant, analyzed the results of the web survey.
A second study, which the Wilson Center conducted by telephone between March 23 and April 8 among a representative cross-section of 600 pilots, was a shortened version of the web survey and was used to provide comparisons on key issues.
The response rate for the telephone poll was 88 percent, which is very high for a national poll with no previous notification.
The analysis in the final report was based on the data from the web survey and the telephone poll, combined for the most accurate results.
Some things are eternal. Despite the economic woes of the airline industry and the continuing turmoil regarding fuel prices, pensions and security, safety remains a primary concern for airline pilots.
According to the survey results, the most important priority that pilots had for ALPA at the national level were
protecting the pilot profession,
lobbying Congress and federal offices, and
These were the most volunteered areas in both the web survey and in the telephone poll. They were also the most important issues named when pilots were asked to rank priorities from a given list of ALPA functions.
Safety was the No. 1 volunteered ALPA priority among pilots in both the web survey and the telephone poll (18.3 percent and 19.8 percent, respectively). Pilots rated ALPA very effective in the area of safety. More specific emphasis was placed on promoting aviation safety and in seeking increased aviation security.
Pilot representation: Separate questions also showed that enforcing pilots’ rights under their contract is a key priority and that ALPA has been effective in that area. In specific terms, pilots felt it was most important for ALPA to
demand contract compliance by flight ops managers,
improve enforcement of union contracts,
instill respect for the contract among top management, and
deter contract violations before they occur.
Lobbying Congress and federal offices: Fighting cabotage, promoting legislation that protects pensions, restricting foreign ownership of U.S. airlines, and defending the Railway Labor Act were the legislative issues that ALPA pilots felt were most important. The survey showed that, despite ALPA’s success on Capitol Hill, pilots are relatively unaware of the clout their union wields. This result was expected, because one of the keys to ALPA’s success in lobbying is its low-key, behind-the-scenes strategy.
Job protection: Protecting jobs was the leading contract goal. Other important goals were protecting or expanding retirement benefits, increasing compensation, and improving scheduling. In other words, pilots want bargaining to generally improve their quality of life.
ALPA structure: The analysis showed that pilots are not very familiar with ALPA’s overall structure. Few pilots were very familiar with ALPA’s structure (about 11 percent in the web survey and 18 percent in the telephone poll). A plurality said they were mostly familiar (about 58 percent in the web survey and 61 percent in the telephone poll). Pilots were even less familiar with the differences in the roles of ALPA at the international, national, and master executive council levels.
MEC priorities: Similar to views of ALPA’s role, pilots felt that contract enforcement and job protection were important for their MEC as well. Pilots most want MECs to enforce their contracts. This was the top volunteered response (named by 11 percent in the web survey and 22 percent in the telephone poll). MECs got good marks for promoting aviation security, although few pilots felt that that was a top priority for the MEC.
Industry financial condition: No surprise here: Pilots had very poor views of the airline industry’s current financial situation. They were only moderately optimistic about their company’s finances over the next 2 years. In demographic terms, pilots in airline groups C-2 and D were the most optimistic about their company’s finances over the next 2 years. Pilots in airline group A were the least optimistic.
Inside the data analysis
The ALPA Advocacy Survey had 13,333 total respondents. The Wilson Center took information about these respondents and entered that into its data analysis system. They then took the largest number of respondents that demographically matched a representative sample of all ALPA members by airline, tenure with current employer, seat position, and membership status. This process narrowed the sample to 7,131 records.
Of the 7,131 records, the Wilson Center took a randomized sample that met the demographic criteria noted and refined the sample to 1,050, the number needed to meet the web survey’s design goal of a 3 percent margin of error. They also coded the open-ended responses for the 1,050 web survey responses.
The analysis in the final report was based on the adjusted data from the web survey and the telephone poll data. However, the data tables that accompany the report and any summary tables contained in it show all three sets of data--telephone poll data, adjusted web survey data, and unadjusted web data.
The results of this survey mesh well with the strategic direction ALPA is taking. Leaders at the international and MEC levels are integrating this analysis into their future planning, and it will drive much of ALPA’s work in the coming months.
The Advocacy Survey also served as a positive first run of ALPA’s web survey methodology. The response rates (and, therefore, accuracy) of the Age 60 Survey were much higher, and this simple and efficient tool will serve ALPA members well in the future.