State of our Union Labor Day Message to all AWA Pilots


May 18, 2003
State of our Union Labor Day Message to all AWA Pilots

September 4, 2006

Fellow America West Pilots,

As the Acting MEC Chairman, I have spent the holiday weekend reviewing many internal documents to familiarize myself for this new position, and I wanted to take this opportunity on this special day for organized labor to outline the "big picture" for all of you so you understand where we are as a union right now, and where we are heading in the short and long terms. I apologize in advance for the length of this message, but it is important for you as a member to have a full understanding of where we are and what we are doing.

First, I would like to talk about the importance of Labor Day to us as union members. The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. Throughout the years, Labor Day has become more synonymous with the end of summer, and less associated with the trade union movement it was created to help recognize. We as airline pilots are members of a trade union. On this Labor Day, I think it is important that we have a conversation about what this MEC is doing specifically regarding the protection of your jobs, and the simple fact that the success of any labor group starts at a grassroots level - with the individual member.

Is there a 'perfect' union? Probably not. Is there a 'perfect' pilot who is a 'perfect' union leader? Nope, wish I could help. I have had to learn that the hard way. Maybe it's just me, and maybe I am just getting older, but having had a front seat to much of the unrest within this union for the past seven or eight years, it is clear to me that we need to re-energize this union and this membership. To start that process, we first need to vent and vet some of our collective bad blood and grudges that we all carry around as pilots - myself included. Only when we complete this process can we move forward and try to find common ground.

Why is this vetting process important? It is important because in probably less than 12 months, the AWA MEC leadership structure will not exist anymore. The AWA MEC will become part of the US Airways MEC. Our six representatives will join the 12 US Airways representatives and elect new MEC officers and appoint new committee chairs. The office at 44th and Van Buren will likely be expanded (we may even need to move) and the staff will likely be doubled. Stated differently, our separate AWA MEC identity will cease to exist as we know it, and it is critical that we set the stage for the legacy of the AWA pilots now before that merger takes place.

Even Andrew Shostack, our venerable, long-time ALPA Contract Administrator will no longer be with us. At the conclusion of our negotiations sometime in 2007, he will move to the ALPA Herndon office to accept a promotion. Congratulations to him and I am sure you will all join me in wishing him much success and happiness. Andrew has worked very hard for the AWA pilot group for more than ten years; he has been with us almost from the beginning of our ALPA representation and we all will miss him, but he goes on to bigger and more important roles in protecting our profession. Replacing Andrew will likely be a much more robust legal department of 2-3 attorneys and probably 2-3 paralegals/legal secretaries to service the needs of several thousand AWA, Mesa, and US Airways pilots in the PHX office. Change is afoot, and with it comes our grudging acceptance of that change.

This segues into our current state of affairs. Changes in leadership are never easy, no matter how or why they occur. The labor movement is dependent on a democratic process where the final authority to elect representatives rests with the membership. Generally, subject to the ALPA Constitution and Bylaws, your representatives in Councils 062 (PHX) and 082 (LAS) enjoy the right to elect and recall any MEC officers at any time with or without cause. That right was put there to protect the membership and vest the authority of the membership in the elected representatives.

As most of you should know by now, a majority of the elected representatives felt that it was time to make a change in the MEC Chairman position. Having sat on the AWA MEC as both a member and an officer, I can certainly say that when the final decision is made to make such a change in leadership, it is always difficult to deal with that change. Regardless of how you feel about the change - it has been tough on all of us, as change always is - we need to accept that change and move on. I do, however, want to review for you what this MEC as a whole has been doing for you the past few months, and what we are going to continue doing in the near future.

Your MEC met in Herndon, Virginia last April to develop the MEC's strategic and communications plan. Following that meeting, a report was produced that highlighted what the leadership team as a whole identified as goals and concerns in moving our group forward. Here is what we came up with:

1) The MEC is dissatisfied with its work as a body and with committees, the desire to have more constructive and effective relations with each other and constituent committees, and the hope that it could set positive examples for the pilot group as a whole;

2) An expectation that the MEC would communicate more internally and with America West pilots more consistently and openly to provide the highest possible level of member information and service;

3) Continued vigorous enforcement of the CBA;

4) Completion of a new CBA that provides improved retirement benefits, increased pay, more job security and quality of life enhancements - preferably jointly with AAA pilots - but on a stand-alone basis, if necessary;

5) Greater understanding of and preparation for another merger; and

6) Employment by a company that is financially stable, successful and profitable in the long-term.

Quite frankly, we have not done the best job in following all aspects of this plan, but we have started on it and have accomplished (or are on our way to accomplishing) many of these goals. We have started re-energizing the committee structure and are continuously working with our key committees re-examining all aspects of contract negotiations and enforcement. Also, we think that another merger has a real chance of occurring. Your MEC needs to analyze what this means to us as AWA pilots. How would the seniority integration be affected? What happens if CLT is closed and 500-600 pilots are displaced as a result of a DOJ anti-trust ruling granting conditional approval of a merger provided management closes down some of the overlapping bases? What will a JNC negotiation look like, if it applies at all? These are all questions this MEC has been thinking about and will work to formulate contingency plans over the next several weeks.

Additionally, during our MEC meeting last week, I reported on our current activities, which include:

* Preparing for and testifying at the E190 Growth Flying Arbitration

* Meeting with the Chief Pilot's office to discuss the importance of continuing our fatigue policy (Mark Solper included)

* Ensuring the AWA MEC continues to enjoy the right to Section 6 negotiations

* Assessing and analyzing the effect of a subsequent merger

* Pursuing a uniform LOA to establish a Pilot Uniform Account

* Securing company funding for FPL for 5 full-time Committee members

* Overseeing the first vacancy bid since the merger announcement

* Meeting several times internally and with management then drafting an E190 LOA to protect AWA pilots pending the outcome of the Eischen award.

During this MEC meeting, there were some critical decisions and direction that the MEC members needed to provide the officers. These included:

* Reviewing and approving of E190 LOA (as applicable)

* MEC Merger Fund Review as it applies to the E190 and B757 issues

* Status of MEC Group Grievances and pending arbitrations

* Status of Jumpseat Program

* Direction for Fall BOD meeting - Facilities/Candidates for ALPA Office

* Appointment of alternate negotiating committee members

* Reviewing JNC talks and Section 6 options

* Reviewing and providing direction for October seniority integration mediation talks

It is always easy to assume that your union has been doing nothing, but as you can see from that list, we are quite busy and routinely putting in 12-14 hour days to protect and defend the AWA membership. At this week's MEC meeting we discussed a critical decision on whether to continue joint negotiations or transition to Section 6 negotiations. We had several of our advisors come in to provide the MEC with their opinions on what to do in this regard. We reviewed all of our options in this regard, as well as discussed where we have been and where we are going. At this point, we will continue to examine the feasibility of continuing joint negotiations and are in the process of scheduling a joint meeting with the East MEC to try and "clear the air" between the east and west MEC officers and members to determine if the joint negotiation process is salvageable in the long run.

I know many of you worry about seniority integration, so let's talk about what is happening with the seniority list integration process. Seniority "mediation" starts in October and runs commensurate with our fourth quarter MEC meeting and Board of Director activities being held in LAS. There are two ways to approach this mediation process: one way is to set a bottom line position and stick to that position - this happened in the recent Polar/Atlas discussions, which resulted in mediation ending quickly because one group could not move off their bottom line position. The other way is to approach the mediation with reasonable positions in the hopes of reaching a fair settlement. What becomes problematic is that often one party feels the need to assert their "political" positions in order to appease their constituency, which usually results in offending the other party who walks away from the process.

While I fully expect our Merger Committee and legal advisors to make reasonable proposals, it is possible that mediation will not be successful. If that occurs, we will transition into arbitration where all the experience and resources of this MEC will be put to task in order to ensure that we are successful in that process. I am confident that our Merger Team (which includes the MEC officers, MEC Merger Committee, Merger Fund Management Committee, Merger Attorney and Advisors) will tap every last source of information and strategy to present the best possible case to protect and defend your seniority. Arbitration dates are available from December 2006 through February 2007. If the arbitrator has to rule, we do not expect a final list until late April/early May 2007.

Many of you have asked us what happens if US Airways Group buys Delta or some other carrier in the fall and what our contingency plan is if that occurs. First, if US Airways Group acquires another air carrier, or portion thereof, the ALPA Constitution and Bylaws and ALPA Policy Manual provide clear guidance on the subject.

Depending on the timing of such acquisition, that group may be folded into our present seniority integration if the ALPA President and Executive Council make such a determination prior to the start of seniority arbitration.
Otherwise, that process will occur after a final list is resolved, as discussed above.

Naturally, the MEC will do as we did with our Brothers and Sisters on the East MEC and immediately meet jointly with the newly acquired pilot group's leadership in order to determine our integration (contract, seniority, and leadership) process going forward. The AWA MEC will also ensure that all our key committees (e.g., Safety, Security, Training, Merger, Merger Fund, etc.) participate in this process to protect the interests of our pilots.

In closing, I want to talk about the state of the industry and the need for greater member participation in our national and local union at all levels. I have yet to meet a pilot who did not get into flying because he loved to fly. We all love to fly airplanes, and I am sure that there is not one of us who did not wish at one time or another that all this 'other stuff' like collective bargaining agreements, mergers, negotiations, paperwork, grievances, politics, etc., would stop getting in the way of our love of flying.

Hardly a week goes by that I don't hear about one of our pilots leaving the profession altogether to pursue another profession. Who can blame anyone for leaving? The continuous attacks on the pilot profession are worse now than at any time in our union's history. It is easy to see how continuing industry problems make the airline pilot profession somewhat less desirable than any number of professions out there despite our love of flying. Even the Wilson Center, our longtime polling operation, has suggested that the always-talked-about pilot shortage may finally come to fruition.

Things in the industry will improve, but change will not come by considering your union a spectator sport. In order for us to effectuate change here, we need your support. There is no excuse for such relatively small numbers of pilots showing up for local council meetings, especially while we are in the middle of a seniority integration and contract negotiations that will affect you and your family for a sizeable portion of your career as an airline pilot. You may not want to hear this, but there is only one person responsible for the success or failure of your union and that is you.

The recent UPS and FDX contracts are bright rays of light that represent hope for our profession at what has seemed to be an endless black tunnel. And we are the first profitable major passenger-carrier to be at the tip of the spear as we kick off the next round of industry negotiations. So that bodes well for improvements, but again, those improvements need to substantially reflect in the W-2s and quality of life for both east and west pilots. This is the ALPA political season and we have some interesting national races going on out there, as evidenced by the four national officer candidates that showed up at our MEC meeting last week to ask for our support, and we need to leverage our 1750 votes to ensure we get what we need to make progress for our membership.

To that end, we have engaged our Communications, Family Awareness and SPC folks to come up with a plan to support negotiations for the near term. I want to see this pilot group marching in lock step with the east pilot group for a clearly definable set of goals that benefit BOTH pilot groups, and not one at the expense of the other. Let me be clear - to unfairly benefit one pilot group at the expense of another is not acceptable to me, the MEC, or our vision of where we need to go. Ultimately there has to be, and there will be, something substantial in this new contract for every pilot - both east and west - that reflects positively in our W-2s, our retirement and benefits, and the quality of life that all our pilots lead. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

I am not going to kid you. I have reviewed the TA'd sections and the sections with open language, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. Unfortunately, one or two good weeks of negotiations does not make a good contract. We have to expect to spend months testing, examining and reviewing scheduling concepts and ideas, and there is much work ahead of us to fill in many critical contract sections. We are some ways off from a joint contract that will be suitable for presentation to the two pilot groups. We have a lot of work to do, and I am confident that our JNC is up to the task of protecting our contractual interests.

Ultimately, you will have to judge your ALPA leadership by the final product. But on this Labor Day in 2006, I am telling you that the final product depends on your involvement. Only with your participation, can this MEC, regardless of who is in what position, ever be successful.

Please have a safe Labor Day wherever you are, and take a moment to reflect on the fact that you are a trade union member, discuss what the true meaning of Labor Day is with your family, and reflect on the fact that we have worked hard to make it in our profession and that we are proud of our legacy as America West pilots. In the meantime, I promise I will do the best I can to continue to protect and defend our rights as labor.

Fraternally and in solidarity,

Captain John McIlvenna
AWA MEC Acting Chairman
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It is my understanding that US Airways is once again actively involved in M&A discussions and it will be interesting to see what unfolds, if anything.


Delta has the right to file its own plan of reorganization just as USAir did in both BK cases. DL wants to stay independent and is producing the financial results to prove it is capable of doing it. It is all but impossible to execute a hostile takeover in BK.
State of our Union Labor Day Message to all AWA Pilots

September 4, 2006

Fellow America West Pilots,

I am confident that our Merger Team (which includes the MEC officers, MEC Merger Committee, Merger Fund Management Committee, Merger Attorney and Advisors) will tap every last source of information and strategy to present the best possible case to protect and defend your seniority.
Fraternally and in solidarity,

Captain John McIlvenna
AWA MEC Acting Chairman

It appears that all invoved ( both sides ) are defending same seniority. Perhaps a winfall to an AWA pilot is not in the cards.