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Magenta Line August 21, 2009

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Well-known member
Sep 10, 2005
Magenta Line August 21, 2009

“If you look at the demographics of the base we have about 65% commuters in Newark. Of those 65% there are about rough justice [sic] 200 commuters from Houston to Newark. And if you are going to have a reduction, we didn’t want to force people out of Houston to backfill people that would be reduced here potentially…It’s to try to reduce some commuters…It’s an easier commute, more flights, better weather and fewer delays.” - Captain Fred Abbott, Newark Pilot Meeting, August 12, 2009

Today is Friday, August 21, 2009 and there are 14 items for discussion.

Item 1: Management Nukes Newark, or, “The Grapes of Wrath, 2009”

Management isn’t too happy with EWR pilots in general and your EWR Council 170 representatives in particular. We are the bulls among the fine china in their executive dining room, the fly in their lattes, the cigarette butt in their urinals. By the way, we have been told there’s no truth to the rumor that management has our photos floating in their toilet bowls with target rings around our faces. Anyway, since our election, they’ve been brainstorming (a process for which they’re sorely ill-equipped) on just how to stop us. The solution they came upon was, well—the term “outside the box” doesn’t do it justice. They decided to move about 300 pilots out of our base and send them to IAH. We’ve been puzzling over this puzzling decision since it was announced. As far as we can tell, it will do the following:

- Force a lot more EWR layovers by IAH crews
- Force junior pilots who bid EWR and made the commitment to move to EWR now commute to IAH
- Force flying that would naturally belong to EWR into IAH
- Send a large group of really very irritated pilots to the base where management has traditionally had more friends
- Create more opportunities for missed trips, sick calls, and other commuting anomalies
- Disrupt the lives of all the families this management decision will affect

What it will not do is make management’s life any easier—your EWR reps are committed to the representation of ALL EWR pilots, regardless of what base you’re flying out of this month. Management constantly reminds us of a bear stock market: new lows daily. Their past two years of fall furloughs have made us seasonal workers—this decision has made us migrant workers, too, and it’s only a matter of time until we see dozens of pickup trucks, granny strapped to the back in her rocker, on the road from the Newark nuclear wasteland to the greener pastures of Houston.

Since our election, management has been obsessing over the “roll-call majority” your EWR reps have maintained at the union hall. Holding this majority of votes has always made the EWR reps the most powerful among our CAL MEC because the roll-call majority allows your EWR reps views to carry the day when it comes to implementing policies, appointing committee chairs, and ensuring that dozens of other decisions go our way. Here’s the real news: your EWR reps have never had to roll-call anything. That’s right. We have gotten where we are because we, the entire MEC from GUM to EWR actually agree with each other on virtually every issue. Management’s newest and boldest bald-faced attempt to interfere in the representation of our pilots isn’t really going to work out for them this time, either. It’s an incredible miscalculation because, once again, management’s ship has sailed without them aboard. They still do not understand that the pilot group has changed and what they used to consider merely “the EWR problem” is now “the pilot problem”—and it encompasses every single base.

We are in Section 6 negotiations and neither side—the pilots or management—can make unilateral changes to anything of substance from now until we sign Contract ’08. While that battle rages, we’ve enjoyed pondering on what the real results of this upheaval will be: 300 angry, pro-union, activist pilots dumped squarely in the middle of management’s front yard. As a result of System Bid 10-08, management has provided the airlift to the enemy paratroopers, flew them behind their lines, and dropped them in exactly the right place to begin their attack. This is real genius thinking.

Management’s prattle on their decision is that they are “helping out the IAH commuters” with this bid. Just as we’ve all been warned about Greeks bearing gifts, it likely goes without saying: management never does anything for us, only to us. As is usual, however, this latest shiv in our backs is not going to help them. But we do have a suggestion. This idea, if implemented by our pilots, will go a long way to help management identify those areas of their operations that are not serving them well. As most of you know, our operation stumbles along every day through the “can-do” spirit of our pilots. We are operationally oriented and we “make it work” regardless of the inefficiency, waste, and stupidity that surrounds us. So here’s our idea: YOU ARE ONLY REQUIRED TO DO YOUR OWN JOB, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO DO EVERYONE ELSE’S!

While we have a duty to Continental Airlines, our primary duty is to ourselves and our families. We—and especially they, our families—will bear the brunt of management’s latest slap at us through fewer days at home and the increased stress of commuting to a base we have no desire to fly from. The strong families will survive—but will incur additional hardships. Many families will buckle and fail under this stress.

Management’s aim is to teach us a lesson—and we will learn that lesson. We believe it is a lesson management will live to regret teaching us.
Item 2: Fred Visits EWR, or, “The Return of Baghdad Bob”

Who can forget Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf? His kindly countenance reminded many of us of our favorite uncle or grandfather and, despite the bombs falling all around and the tanks and infantry divisions encircling Baghdad, Baghdad Bob assured us with his “let’s all gather ‘round the campfire” storyteller’s delivery that Saddam’s victory was at hand and that all traitors and infidels would die swinging from meat hooks.

Captain Abbott was in town last week to deliver a similar message—and answer a few questions from the EWR pilots. When the pilots, led by our EWR Council 170 Chairman, Captain Jayson Baron, were done with the interrogation, Captain Abbott likely wished he’d never heard of EWR and wondered what he could have been thinking when he and his large entourage booked their First-Class, Positive-Space travel to visits us.

Freddy and the Reamers—which included such luminaries as “Turncoat Tom” Stivala, Jackson Martin, and Chip Benton—each have their own claims to fame: Stivala for delivering our pilots unto the evil of Contract ’02, Martin for deserting to management before it was fashionable, and Benton for refusing a dying pilot a hardship transfer that would have allowed him to remain in IAH. Together, they are so much less than the sum of their parts.

Experiencing Fred’s performance before a crowd of a hundred or so pilots was something for the ages, something to tell our grandkids about in our dotage as we nudge back and forth in our rockers wearing our “I Survived Continental Management!” T-shirts. Witnessing Fred dissemble, obfuscate, and shade and stretch with the best of them cleared up any doubt we may have had as to how this unassuming guy survived every management regime change since Frank Lorenzo: Fred is the ultimate “gray man”, the guy no one notices in the room, the chameleon everyone looks at and sees what they want to see. Fred has the ability to simultaneously agree and disagree with you and make you think it was all your idea.

He bemoaned the lack of pilot unity—as evidenced by our constant changes in the union—as the real obstacle on the path to Contract ’08 and told us how hard it was for management to work with us when they had to deal with new people all the time. He told us that we were our own worst enemies by electing representatives who are so hard to co-opt, uh, co-operate with, and told us that the pilots are the reason we don’t have a great contract. He told us that safety was the prime objective—as long as it didn’t cost too much and that rest for one pilot was not necessarily rest for another. When asked by Jayson Baron whether it was safe to work a full day in the office—ala Fred Stankovich—and then go fly a 14-hour trip to India, Fred said that Stank was “only the IRO” and that he could rest in the bunk if he got tired. We’ll be sure to remember that when we’re tired and we’re “only the First Officer” or “only the Captain” on a 757 trip—and we have no IRO—and no bunk, either.

We don’t know what kind of reception Fred was planning on when he showed up. What he got was scorn and open disdain as tough questions—and questioners—rained down upon him. His non-responses met with groans, laughter, and disbelief as he told us again and again that what we would consider as “doing the right thing”, he considered as “items for negotiation” and that the only roadblock on the road to Contract ’08 was the pilots—and the representatives they elected. He committed, under intense pressure, to “look into” several items—none of which will likely ever see the light of day again. He told us that management is “realigning” and “balancing” IAH and EWR and all for the benefit of the pilots. He told us that management was really trying to put bases where the pilots wanted to live. We suppose the DEN, LAX, SFO, FLL, and SEA bases will be announced shortly.

Fred is now back in Houston, no doubt diligently working on working together with the roadblocks and obstacles he considers us to be. He is probably figuring all the ways he can enhance our careers by shifting pilots away from such radical bases as EWR—but has ensured the rise of fed-up pilots who want to be paid in IAH, CLE, and GUM as well.

Management can move us anywhere they want—but when we get there, we are still the same pilots they tried to stop. It is a strategy that contains its own seeds of destruction—for management, not us.

Item 3: Council 170 Meeting: Standing Room Only

We were overwhelmed with pilots at our quarterly Council 170 meeting this past week. While over 150 signed in on the attendance roster, we believe we actually had over 200 during the course of the 4-hour meeting. We allowed for 30 parking passes, we distributed almost 100; additional chairs had to be ordered twice; and the food consumed was almost three times what we started with. Even with these additional accommodations, we still had dozens of pilots standing outside the meeting room. Not a bad show. Your Council 170 Officers thank you for your attendance and your participation.

The crew of the Brussels-Newark flight, First Officers Jeff Titus and Vince Stanek, were honored with an ALPA Safety Award for assuming command of the aircraft after Captain Craig Lenell passed away. The crew of the Newark-San Francisco flight, Captain Brent Black, First Officer Dan Montgomery, and jumpseating Captain Steve Wyckoff, were also honored for their amazing handling of a catastrophic engine failure immediately after takeoff.

Captain Al Brandano, First Officer Nick Fabry, and First Officer Kate Malone received awards for their prior service as our Council 170 Officers.

Council 170 Chairman Jayson Baron updated us on the status of the Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the STAR Alliance, the new RFL LOA, and, as Negotiating Committee Chair Mark Adams was unable to attend our meeting, gave Captain Adams NC Committee update PowerPoint presentation.

Retirement and Insurance Committee Chair Andy Sigler discussed all aspects of our retirement and insurance programs.

Eric Hunter, the incoming Chairman of the SPSC Committee gave a brief presentation on the revitalization of the SPSC and the role it will play in the coming months as we near the endgame of Contract ’08.

Dave Owens, Chairman of our PBS and Scheduling Committees, gave a presentation on PBS and the improvements coming to PBS bidding and spoke about staffing, the new bid, and the difficulties of holding management accountable for their actions when our current contract has few or no provisions to do so.

Several resolutions were introduced, one regarding limiting of Honor Guard details to members in good standing, one dealing with increasing per diem to the government rates, and one regarding the unfreezing of our A plan. All passed.

We had an emotional and extremely well-received presentation by Michelle Bixby and Trish Riggs of the Continental Airlines Families for Change. When the major changes to our contract and lifestyles come, they will be as a direct result of the efforts of the families of our pilots—and these families are being united and educated by this new organization.

The meeting adjourned at 1505 and virtually the entire audience accompanied us to the crew room meeting with Fred Abbott.

Thanks again for your attendance and participation. These numbers are not going unnoticed by management.
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Item 4: Issues With the September 2009 B756 Bid Runs

From Captain Dave Owens, PBS and Scheduling Committee Chairman:

On August 17th, while the first group of PBS bid results was being loaded into the CMS scheduling system, several FAR illegalities were discovered on individual lines in the IAH756 solution. Upon further investigation, a data error was discovered in a computer file that affected a small number of trips, limited to the 756 fleet. This error caused the system, in a limited fashion, to look at some 3-man trips with 4-man trip rules. Specifically, those rules were: 20 block in 48 hours, 24 block in 727 hours, 120 block in 30 days, and 300 block in 90 days. The error allowed a flight time greater than allowed by the rule(s).

With the EWR 756 scheduled for release the next morning, your PBS Committee met with company counterparts to determine the extent of the issue and the options available.
It was determined that 7 EWR756CA lines, 12 EWR756FO lines, 7 IAH756CA and 17 IAH756FO lines had legality issues. In EWR this equates to a 2.2% CA and 2.7% FO line error percentage and in IAH this equates to a 4.8% CA and 8.8% FO line error percentage, short of the 10% required to give the Union the right to mandate a complete re-run. The PBS Implementation LOA addresses this specifically in paragraphs R.2 and R.5. Furthermore, it was clearly established, in no uncertain terms during the creation of that language that an error on “Bidder 1” does not constitute a cascading error on each line award throughout the run for the purposes of the 10% re-run threshold.

The decision was made to publish the EWR runs (the IAH runs had already been published on the morning of the 17th) on time and deal with each line error on an individual basis. This process involved RX days and full pay protection for the pilots involved. Most of these pilots will be illegal for some potential additional flying during these RX Days due to the nature of the original assignment and because scheduling has legalized these pilots’ lines by removing trips at the point of the illegality. These dropped trips have now been placed in open time and will be available to all pilots in the open window. This open time is an additional cost to the company in addition to the payment for all trips in the bid run. This equates to a significant amount of additional dollars to the 756 pilot group in an otherwise low time month.

Several rumors have been floating around that should be addressed:

Rumor: All of the trips were not awarded; therefore it prevented a trickle-down effect.

Answer: This is not true. All pilots were awarded a line within the legal line range for their BES using all available trips. The trips seen in open time are the result of crew scheduling modifying the affected pilots’ lines and dropping these trips into open time. Any re-run would have given the pilots with a line issue a legal line according to their bid group. Any changes to their award would have been done using the pool of all trips. This would have been just as likely to have a detrimental effect on junior pilots as a positive effect.

Rumor: Re-running would have been punitive to the company.

Answer: A re-run, while putting the bid awards out approximately 2 days late for all 756 pilots as well as changing the schedules of the already released IAH 756 pilots, would have provided the most cost effective method to the company. The only cost would have been an apology. The method of fixing the issue in Crew Scheduling creates full pay protection of the pilots involved as well as the benefit of the open time to the main 756 population that would otherwise not be there.

Rumor: Mandating a re-run was an option.

Answer: This issue did not break any of the thresholds that provide the Association with the leverage to force a re-run. Our only discussion about a re-run with the Company was that any re-run would have to be full and complete with no shortcuts. This would have equated to a release late on the 19th or possibly the 20th.

Where do we go from here?

As your committee, we are looking at what changes are needed to the resolution portion of PBS language to give us more options in situations such as this. Items such as full release and pay protection on affected pilots, lower re-run thresholds, etc. have been discussed with the negotiating committee. As far as the issue that occurred in the run, the process has been reviewed, corrected, and additional redundancy put in place.

Item 5: Remember: Be Safe

The past few years have been nothing but turmoil and upheaval. As we’ve watched the dramatic decline in the spending power of our earnings and the complete destruction of our meager work rules, we’ve seen a corresponding rise in sick and fatigue calls. Contract ’02 decimated us in more ways than we can count and management has seemingly enjoyed their role as the vultures circling overhead, waiting to pick off the weak.

Under our present circumstances it is easy to become distracted by outside influences. Any distraction in our working environment can easily lead to the compromise of safety—and safety is our business.

We ask every one of our pilots to ensure they are safe in every area of every flight. We cannot afford the results a lapse in safety can bring us.
Item 6: Repeat—“The Best Staffed Summer…”, etc, etc

Currently, the union and management only track actual junior manning events. As we all know, instances of scheduling abuse and intimidation abound so we are going to start tracking these occurrences, as well.

Please send your scheduling horror stories to:

[email protected]

Item 7: Repeat—Cleveland Air Show: Is Your Family Aware?

The Cleveland Airshow runs September 5-7 and the CALMEC will be there. While this is not a major family-awareness event, it does have a family-awareness component to it. Your CALMEC will have a tent set up on the flightline where many of your officers will be present throughout the days. The “CAL Families for Change” (CAFC) will be there as well to provide information on their organization and to recruit new members. Be sure you and your family stop by and say hello.

Item 8: CAL Families For Change

The momentum is gathering for the organization known as “The CAL Families For Change”. This organization, founded by Michelle Bixby, Trish Riggs, Lori Landburg, Janelle O’Connell, and Casey Radican, was created to support and educate the families of our pilots who may be experiencing Continental management’s strong-arm tactics for the first time. In just a few weeks, CAL Families For Change has spun up and is ready for action.

As part of their information gathering efforts, Michelle and Trish asked Fred Abbott for permission to attend his recent meeting with the IAH pilots. When Fred discovered that his attempts to co-opt them and have them work for management instead of the pilots and their families failed, he told them they would not be welcome at the IAH meeting. They showed up in EWR anyway.

Their first major awareness event will be at the Cleveland Airshow, September 5-7. Please bring your family and stop by and say hello. There will be ongoing presentations on the union and all the resources available to families both from ALPA and the CAFC.

For further information, please contact Michelle Bixby at: 281.304.6687 or [email protected]

Trish Riggs may be contacted at 830.249.1242 or [email protected]

Item 9: Repeat—It Really is That Simple: Bid All of Your Vacation

Vacation bidding will be upon us soon and we have a simple message: BID ALL OF IT, AND BID ALL OF IT AS ANNUAL VACATION!

We have pilots on furlough. If every pilot bid every week they were entitled to as annual (not monthly) vacation, most of our hostages could come home to us. Yes, you may have to put off your new bass boat another month but these are our brothers and sisters with families to care for and not bidding all of your vacation hurts them.

This is going to be a major issue this fall for your EWR LEC reps. An educational campaign is being created and it’s going to highlight both the problems caused by not bidding all of your vacation and the benefits to be gained by bidding it all. Remember, you must bid all of your vacation as annual vacation or it will NOT be counted in next year’s staffing formula.

Don’t be insensitive to our furloughees; BID IT ALL!
Item 10: Repeat—Eye to Tie

A large segment of our pilot group bemoans our lowly standing among unionized carriers and often wonders aloud what we can do to fix this problem.

Sometimes the simplest things are best and one of the simplest is to wear the ALPA pin on your tie. Management does look at us and they keep a rough count. When you wear your pin, you are not swearing allegiance to John Prater or the ALPA bureaucracy—you are showing solidarity with your fellow pilots—some of whom are now on the street. The pin says, “I belong” and tells management that their days of dominance over us are finished.

This may be hard to believe but at many other ALPA carriers, you are a “slick-tie” at your own peril. These guys are shunned when they show up to fly without the pin.

It is our duty as union pilots to speak to our “slick-tied” friends and get them to see the error of their ways. This does not have to be difficult or uncomfortable—it can be a chat among friends—but, ultimately, it has to be done if we are to advance beyond the miserable garbage that passes for a contract here at Continental.

Put your differences with ALPA aside and wear the pin; it may be a baby-step—but it’s a baby-step on the way to the best contract ever.

By the way, we have seen more pins on ties and lapels in EWR than at any time in the past—and the difference is HUGE. You guys are doing a great job! Please keep it up!

Item 11: Request for Committee Volunteers

All of our committees need volunteers. If you are one of the many somewhat selfish and untested among us, if you are interested in committee work, if you have special artistic talents of any kind, or if you just like to chew the legs off your dining room table, we want you to help your fellow EWR pilots. If you are interested or have previously expressed interest via e-mail or a phone call, please confirm your continuing interest in an e-mail to Captain Kaye Riggs, Secretary-Treasurer, LEC 170 at [email protected]. Please put your name and the word “Volunteer” in the subject line.

Item 12: Next Meetings

Our next local council meeting has not yet been scheduled but should occur in October.

Our next MEC meeting has not yet been scheduled but should occur in October.
Item 13: Special Guest Editorial by EWR Captain Eric Anderson

The Incredible Shrinking Base

Before diving into this little story of anger and disappointment I probably should begin with an apology. As I write, potentially 200 MORE of my brothers and sisters--with mortgages and children and practically NO flying job prospects--are about to be tossed to the street. Every one of these pilots to whom I have talked or with whom I have flown has shouldered this news with professionalism and humor. Sometimes I am in awe of this pilot group--particularly those on the junior half of the list. But no, this story is about me: Currently an ISB B737 Captain with ISB B777 FO comfortably in his future. And I am handling this comparatively insignificant news with nowhere near the fortitude of those who are about to collect Unemployment. Thus the apology.

"ISB" is an abbreviation of the title of this piece and for the purposes of my story replaces the once formidable "EWR". Of course I don't expect this moniker to stick. But it is the foundation for this bit of writing so please indulge me. August 12 was a significant day for several reasons. First it was the day after the company dropped the system bid bomb on our heads and second, it was the date for the Council 170 LC meeting to be followed by our date with Captain Fred Abbott in our well-appointed crew room. I showed up for the council meeting in a stupor. The day before, my wife and I discussed how we would make ends meet without my Captain's salary. There was a time when such a conversation took place between only the truly fiscally stupid. But these are different times. As for us, we carry no credit card debt. The two modest cars were paid off years ago. And we live in a house that no self-respecting Houston pilot would even step foot in. But I just bought that house in February and New Jersey seems to think its grand, so grand in fact that they complement it with a $10,000 property tax. The bid was something of a shock. We all knew about the reductions. But in ISB, we weren't only hit with reductions (nearly ALL the system's reductions), we also saw a massive redistribution of 737 and 756 flying to Houston ("IGB" perhaps?). So it was with this combination of worry and confusion that I met this day.

The meeting, as is typical for Newark, was well attended by pilots who commuted in early or drove in from Connecticut or PA and sacrificed a precious day off for betterment of their families and their profession. Most of the pilots in attendance looked just like me; shocked and angry that the company they love appears to be headed towards a reef by a rudderless leadership. Others, the smarter ones, had been to this dance far too many times to feel anything. Our council reps looked utterly exhausted after an all-night session first debating and passing the new reduced flying LOA then preparing for both the LEC meeting and the subsequent meeting with Fred and Friends. For me the meeting was a haze. Nothing against the leadership or the speakers as it was well run by the new reps and informative. But my mind was elsewhere. By the time we got to the crew-room later that afternoon, I had a headache and an attitude.

If he was nothing else Captain Abbott was prepared, even confident in the presence of well over a hundred seriously disaffected pilots. Why wouldn't he be? He's not a furlough risk. I have no doubt that he is comfortable with his mortgage, assuming he still has one. There is little chance of the system bid moving his desk to Newark (maybe Denver someday but that's another discussion). The room was mostly polite. Much of what was discussed touched on valid, but to me, secondary concerns like the woeful condition of the crewroom or the growing trend to subject our customers (and our reputation) to regional partners who don't always share our concern for safety or service. What I wanted to know was why was ISB being singled out? Was the New York market shrinking that much? No, that flying will continue but more of it will be done within Houston pairings. So I tried to ask why this big redistribution to Houston and can we expect it to reverse once economic conditions improve? But my question came out of my mouth in verb-subject-object form as if spoken by Yoda and I no longer seemed to be able to pronounce "re- re- dister -ibution". Fred angled his head slightly, squinted, shrugged, and claimed not to have a clue what I was asking. Someone else in the room was kind enough to translate Eric-speak into English and Fred's answer was dubious: Shifting flying out of Newark resulted in the fewest displacements. I then screamed (breaking Jayson Baron's command to be polite and professional), "why don't you just re- re- dister -ibute ALL our flying to Houston!" Fred shrugged again. And so ended my heroic day.

The next evening a friend (another ISB Captain) came over for a beer. When I rehashed the previous day's discussion he threw his hands up and said, "why didn't you or someone in the room not say 'look, we understand that as the junior base most if not all the reductions come out of Newark but why double the pain by shifting so much New York flying to Houston?'". Why indeed! Fred's answer would no doubt have been the same but it was a much better way to phrase the question.

Before continuing, I should probably put on the table a few feelings about the LEC 170 leadership that might be a little controversial. I had seen Jayson and Kaye's work on the Forum in years past and found that we had little in common except perhaps a love for flying. If I say they were "radical", most readers will reply, "Hell yeah they are radical! That's the point!" True. One can be radical in the organizational sense and accomplish great things while the staid, play-by-the-rules types never move the world forward. America was founded by this type of radical. But there is also another type of radical whose heart is in the right place but whose methods are too off the wall to advance the cause. It is into this latter category that I placed our Council 170 leadership and they didn't exactly change that opinion when their first blastmail stated that "Today Continental management woke up to their worst nightmare..." Subsequent writings continued with over-the-top prose and relentless management needling. Admittedly, much of this was juicy stuff but I failed to see what it accomplished. Thinking others felt the same I searched them out. When the conversation turned, as it always does, to union topics I would make my feelings known to friends, flying partners, and anybody else who would listen. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY in Newark agreed with me. This was a case of realizing that one is a little out of touch with his peers. The near universal opinion of the pilots I talked to was that we had tried the non-aggressive line and it has paid exactly zero dividends. As a one-time FO Rep, I'd respond that in my experience this hasn't always been true. I would then give a few examples, none of which seemed very compelling when my listener was a double-pumped reserve who hasn't slept in 24 hours and may soon be on the street. Nonetheless, I can't sweep aside my limited experience where I have seen first-hand how a working relationship with our managers helped a pilot in a pinch. The problem for management is that for each positive example there are ten where a pilot has been unfairly treated. So if we take two extremes in representation with on one side, the old Ops Group and on the other, Charlie Smith at Eastern we have somewhere in the middle the right note where we fight the good fight without burning the house down to spite it. Are we there? I'm not convinced but I recognize that elections matter and the Newark election put in place a team which honestly represents the will of the Newark base.

Yesterday I phoned a friend on Guam. This is another pilot with whom I haven't always agreed but who I trust like a brother. Because he speaks only when he has something intelligent to say, those who know him never ignore him. You might say he's the E.F. HUTTON of Guam pilots. When I described the Fred Show he replied, "What did you expect? Your Reps declared war on Management, literally! They wrote 'WAR'!". Now of course this had gone through most pilot’s minds--that this ISB bid was a response to the blastmail rhetoric. But I'm no conspiracist (a word I’ve invented). Not only that, I just have never believed that our post-Lorenzo management has the capacity to act aggressively, for good or ill. But my friend is no conspiracist either. And for him to state this was something of a wake-up call: "In my 20 plus years at this airline I have never seen so much flying shift from a hub that wasn't significantly shrinking. I have never seen a bid like this. The problem with war is that it is often the innocents who get hurt."
If you think this article has reached the point where I claim that our Reps' lethal pen is to blame for our loss of flying then please read on. If Management did in fact punish ISB pilots for a few harsh words then I take that as an act of desperation. It would completely dismiss as irrelevant the professionalism and dedication we pilots ply daily to get the mission done safely, smoothly, and on time. Is the Great Shift a rational response to our leading contribution to the operation of this airline? Is it even a rational response the The Magenta Line? Of course not. I seriously doubt that any pilot has walked up to Jayson, Tara, or Kaye and shouted, "This is your fault!". If the LC meeting was any indication, their support is stronger than ever. After this conversation with my Guam friend, I was happy for the first time since reading the bid. This is a struggle that is now out in the open. Good people are on all sides. Some have proven a willingness to fight for what they feel is best for the pilots and others are fighting for what they feel is best for the Shareholders. Pilots no longer need to guess about the boogeyman. It's not the union, it's not flight pay loss, it's not long-suffering union volunteers losing pay, time off, and on rare occasions, relationships. It's the idea that flying can be shifted from domicile to domicile, that a pilot tossed on the street is the gift that keeps on giving as she, if gone long enough, takes years to regain longevity once she comes back. It's the people who decide that $2500 a month and no insurance for the first six months is fair and right. Shifting flying isn't going to teach Newark a lesson any more than it will make Houston pilots content. We are all providing historic productivity under an awful contract and little hope for improvement without a serious demonstration of resolve. This is equally true regardless of where a pilot happens to be based.

All of this: the contract, the furloughs, the Incredible Shrinking Base, the deterioration of Captain's authority, the eroding reputation of the Continental brand, they all unify the pilots' resolve to work toward something better. As for the ISB, management is exercising their right to manage. But I'm pretty certain that it will only take a couple of Nor'easters for them to realize that more, not less, New York flying should be done by those who either live in the area or have positioned themselves far enough in advance to fly their schedules. We'll see. This is nowhere near the endgame.

Item 14: Chairman’s Editorial

Why I Voted for the Furlough Mitigation RFL LOA

The direction you gave us as your elected leaders to avoid any new furloughs was clear:

- Absolutely “No Concessions”

- Don’t give anything up in order to achieve any mitigation

- Any program created must be voluntary

As long as these three objectives could be achieved you directed us to try to save jobs.

Tara and I firmly believe we followed the direction from our pilots and made the appropriate decision to approve the RFL LOA. We felt that way after our several hour MEC Conference call on the evening of August 11th to review the document . We still feel that way today.

Now let’s review the three objectives as it relates—in my opinion—to the RFL LOA:

1: Concessions – No pilot, especially those above the projected furlough line will be negatively affected in any way by the RFL LOA. Unlike last year’s agreement there will be no effect on your PBS awards with regards to pay or quality of life degradation.

2: Don’t Give Anything Up – No JV/Scope relief – No pay cuts – we didn't give anything up to save projected furloughed pilots jobs. For those who think we should have attained 55 hour no fly lines, did you want us to give something up to attain them? If so, you did not direct us to do that. We had no leverage to attain this LOA, and I am not going to use 146 pilots on the brink of furlough as that leverage. When we use pilots as leverage to attain anything in negotiations, we will do so by using each and every pilot on the seniority list, not 146 on the chopping block. Equal sharing of load and pain is required—and what unity and belonging to a union is all about.

3: Voluntary – No one is forced into RFL. You don’t like it, don’t bid it.

Now let’s address the time line. Tara, Kaye, and I were kept in the loop by Jay Pierce for the past few weeks as to the progress and details of the negotiations. Nothing was a surprise—these types of negotiations don’t occur in a vacuum. We had 24 hours to review the detailed and extensive bullet points. While I agree an hour to review the complete document (with complete and full language) is short, however, we were under absolutely no pressure from anyone to approve or even vote on the LOA. Ask anyone on the MEC, Tara and I are not in the least bit shy. If we felt we had any questions unanswered, or concerns that the document was in the least bit flawed or could be a determent to of any of our pilots—especially those above the furlough line—in a New York second we would have used everything at our disposal including the roll call vote to delay or kill the LOA.

We, as an MEC, spent almost two hours going line by line over final LOA language with the Negotiating Committee, MEC Officers and ALPA attorneys. The LOA is very short, straight forward and not in any way complicated. Everyone who voted to approve the document did so after all questions were answered. No one felt pressured to vote on the document; if that was the case we would have delayed or canceled the vote.

I also want to point out that subject matter experts like our Scheduling Chairman and PBS expert Dave Owens were involved in the process with the Negotiating Committee from day one and they also felt the LOA should be approved. This was not the case with last year’s furlough mitigation. This LOA fixes several problems created by the previous Furlough Mitigation LOA and, again, not to the detriment of any pilot above the furlough line.

Since Tara and I were convinced that items 1, 2, and 3 above were in no way compromised, we felt we had a duty and obligation on behalf of the pilots who may get furloughed to approve this LOA. It really was that simple.

I also want to point out that not only is it a benefit to those who may get furloughed but every single pilot on the list would benefit in a seniority integration with these effected pilots on the property vs off the property.

Now, let’s discuss for a minute the job performance of your Local Council 170 Officers—or just your two representatives on the MEC, Tara and me. In the very near future, your MEC and Negotiating Committee will be conducting more Wilson Polling. There will be specific questions asked as to the performance of the LEC 170 Officers and our Communications. I ask everyone who participates to be brutally honest.

Lastly, I want to make the following comments. Things are very different today with regards to how our MEC operates vs the Contract ‘02 era. Unlike during Contract ‘02 the MEC Representatives (the eight elected status reps and the single flight instructor representative) make the big decisions. The MEC Officers, the Negotiating Committee, all other MEC Committees and ALPA experts work for the MEC. Last time around you could basically argue the opposite. We as MEC Representatives are not pressured to do anything, and if we were, personnel changes would take place immediately.

Our Negotiating Committee and MEC Officers are all very talented and doing a great job. If we believe we have problems with their job performance then the appropriate changes will be made.

If, after all of the above, you are still not pleased with the RFL LOA, then please direct the blame squarely where it belongs: with the eight MEC Representatives who voted to approve this LOA— NOT JAY PIERCE, NOT THE NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE, OR ANY ALPA EXPERTS!

It’s good for the company to have a unified pilot force…If you guys are of all one mind then it does help the negotiations.” - Captain Fred Abbott, Newark Pilot Meeting, August 12, 2009

Captain Jayson Baron, EWR Council 170 Chairman
[email protected]

First Officer Tara Cook, EWR Council 170 Vice Chairman
[email protected]

Captain Kaye Riggs, EWR Council 170 Secretary-Treasurer
[email protected]

Captain Kaye Riggs
Council 170 Secretary/Treasurer
Director of Communications

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