As Mesa proves time and time again, pilot compensation has never been market driven.
A free market system works thusly: fewer people with the necessary skills to fill a particular position result in higher compensation.
That''s not why widebody captains make what they do: they make what they do because ALPA/APA (or any union, for that matter) artificially withholds the "labor" until they get the pay rate they want, and threaten those who might offer to do it for less (eg, the infamous scab list).
Don''t confuse the two. ALPA''s willingness to trade away "undesirable" (eg, what was prop commuter flying) and to protect the guys at the top end of the seniority list has bitten them in the ### many times. It will continue to do so short of a bit of strategic vision about how the market might correct itself (another 9/11 or a further downturn in the economy).
I know somebody is going to chime in here about "protecting the profession." How many guys down the road are going to _ever_ be in a position to make the big bucks, versus not starving on the low end and/or making the medium bucks?
Ok. And unions are not a part of market forces...simply because you do not like their politics. Wrong. Every action a union takes in the confines of the current economy and job market ARE market forces. I am not saying what is fair...just what is happening. The top rate of pay of the most senior Capt. at an airline drives the wages of EVERY unionized employee on the property. Again, you are right about what is fair and just...just do not exclude unions from the final equation.