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Magenta Line July 23, 2009

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Well-known member
Sep 10, 2005
Magenta Line July 23, 2009
ALPA: The Pilots Union

“Because they are so intent on creating an atmosphere of distrust and unhappiness, they appear not to see any need to rely on facts...” - Captain Fred Abbott in the July 2009 issue of the Flight Operations Update, apparently referring to your EWR Council 170 representatives.

Note to Fred: facts appear below—just like they do every week.

Today is Thursday, July 23, 2009 and there are 10 items for discussion.

Item 1: Furlough Notices Out; Management Must Want Something—Again

Mr. Smisek strode on stage this past week as the CEO-elect of Continental Airlines. Mr. Smisek brings baggage with him as those who have experienced him first-hand will tell you. His image as the “bad-cop” of the executive suite has been well-earned so we offer him a piece of advice as prepares to take the tiller from Mr. Kellner: leave the attitude at the door. Mr. Smisek will have the smallest window of opportunity ever of any incoming CEO to get on the right side of things with the pilots of Continental and we urge him to use this one-time opportunity to do just that.

The pilots Mr. Smisek is dealing with today aren’t the same ones who cowered in the corner in 2005 while management threatened their way to Contract ’02. We aren’t even the pilots of last year who fell over ourselves to provide management with a furlough-mitigation LOA that didn’t mitigate furloughs. The new hardware update is Continental Pilot 2009. This new hardware prevents us from helping management further destroy us and adds the ability to take back what management gleefully took from us in the past. Continental Pilot 2009 is unable to make any deals to add to management’s hostage total and will not negotiate anything away to “save furloughs” that management fully intends to take anyway. Our message is that if management wants to furlough additional pilots while we junior-man almost daily, have new airplanes on order, and have massive and sweeping changes to the FARs coming within months, go ahead—but we will not help you do it.

We will be happy to sit at the table with you—as equal partners. We will listen to what you have to say—but we will not be threatened or dictated to. We will arrive at whatever solution needs to be arrived at—with the understanding that we will do nothing to jeopardize the future of our pilots and their families in either the short or long term.

Threatening us by sending out 308 furlough letters is not only a very bad start to your new job, it doesn’t really scare us anymore. We’ve heard from our membership: we aren’t giving anything up to prevent a single pilot from being furloughed from what used to be an honored career—but is now just a job.

So come talk to us—don’t threaten us, don’t strong arm us, don’t lead with arrogance. You’ve already started off on the wrong foot—don’t compound that error. You need us, we don’t need you. There are tens of thousands where you came from—but only 5000 Continental pilots here today and able to operate the airline—today. Whether we operate the airline tomorrow—well, that’s up to you.

Item 2: Special CALMEC Meeting Update

Your CALMEC Officers met for three days this past week in a special session to receive briefings on the STAR Alliance, the status of Contract ’08 negotiations, the state of the economy, and the financial position of Continental Airlines. We also provided new guidance to our Negotiating Committee that will allow them to tailor our demands to fit any scenario that may arise. Based upon this new guidance, we will be able to capture every possible benefit as our negotiations proceed.

As many of you know, Continental Airlines was granted anti-trust immunity by the Department of Transportation two weeks ago. This grant allows Continental to become a full partner in the STAR Alliance—provided, of course, our concerns as the pilots of Continental are dealt with. There is a road to full partnership for Continental—and on that road sits the CALMEC toll booth. There is huge revenue potential for Continental as a STAR Alliance partner and we fully intended to capture our share.

Negotiations on many sections of Contract ’08 are proceeding. Most of the economic sections are upcoming and the Negotiating Committee requested our guidance going forward.

They also requested our guidance on the proposed FAR changes being discussed now in Washington, D.C. These new changes are forthcoming in part as a result of the Colgan Airways crash in Buffalo, New York, and the evidence that came to light in the hearings that followed. The ARC Committee has a September 2009 deadline for submission of their proposals. These new proposals, if implemented, will be the most sweeping changes in flight, duty, and rest regulations in decades. ALPA has an equal seat at the table and any changes made will take our requirements as pilots into account. The tentative effective date for implementation of any new rules is January 2010.

We also gave guidance to the Negotiating Committee to capture every possible no or low-cost item in as short a time-frame as is feasible. Management always wants something from us, it’s time for us to return the favor.

The meeting was conducted in a spirit of cooperation. There were virtually NO major differences of opinion among your representatives; we know what we want and when we want it.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Chairman Jay Pierce announced his appointment of Captain Eric Hunter as the next Chairman of the SPSC. Captain Hunter will replace Captain Mike Jones effective October 1, 2009. Captain Hunter’s appointment will be confirmed by the full MEC at the October MEC meeting. Your EWR reps welcome Captain Hunter to his new job. He brings a wealth of Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee experience to his new position. We are looking for amazing things from Eric—we know he will not disappoint.

Item 3: Another One Bites the Dust

Larry Kellner announced this past week that he was stepping down to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family. Jeff Smisek was immediately named to replace him.

While speculation has run rampant as to the actual reason for Mr. Kellner’s departure, in the long run it doesn’t matter. Mr. Kellner is just the most recent CEO to be ejected from the executive suite revolving door. Our new CEO, Mr. Smisek, will be gone one day as well. The important thing to remember is that we, the employees, will still be here. We were here before them, and we will be here after them. While they are financially and professionally immune to their own bumbling, we are not. We live with what they leave us—which is, in most cases, a mess. Mr. Kellner is no exception to this ultimate application of the Peter Principle.

We got a note from Captain Abbott a couple of days ago. He wanted to make sure we did not quote the recent article in the Houston Chronicle which said, in part, that Mr. Kellner will get a 5.3 million dollar severance package in addition to the multi-millions he will be paid for his hugely-accelerated retirement credit. Captain Abbott was careful to remind us that, as Mr. Kellner’s departure is voluntary, this 5.3 million dollars will not be paid to him. We are, of course, grateful to Fred for clearing this up for us so let us just say that Mr. Kellner will, by the time he leaves us, have collected somewhere between 25 and 50 million dollars in cash, plus stock, plus perks, plus cars, plus lifetime first-class passes, plus an office somewhere he might visit now and then. Mr. Kellner has accumulated massive wealth as a result of his misguidance of Continental Airlines—including millions of dollars in California real estate, which will be passed down to his children. This wealth will ensure that no one in Mr. Kellner’s family will ever have to work again—from his children, to his grandchildren, to his great grandchildren and beyond. This wealth came, in large part, from the pockets of the employees of Continental Airlines. It’s a Robin Hood role-reversal: rob from the poor and give to the rich—and give, and give, and give.

We have families, too. What we don’t have is the luxury of resigning “to spend more time” with them. Neither do we have the money to live in comfort for the rest of our lives let alone pass anything on to our children.

Continental Airlines was founded by Bob Six, a pioneer who owned and ran Continental himself for over forty years. Today all airlines are run by people who haven’t the slightest vested interest in their own performance beyond tomorrow’s stock price. Management’s sole metric virtually guarantees their long-term failure—but they get massive paydays anyway—while we are left to figure how to survive into retirement with as little as they can possibly leave us.

Our Inflight magazine this month carries as the cover story Continental’s 75th Anniversary. It is a surprisingly good read and worth a look even if only for the photos. Not surprisingly, and as the article alludes to, the secret of our success in those forty-plus glory years under Bob Six was innovation and industry leadership. Bob Six was a self-made “airline guy” who wrote a great deal of the textbook those who followed him would learn from. But today, there are no more Bob Sixes, there are no Juan Trippes, there are no C.E. Woolmans, there are no Eddie Rickenbackers. There are only the Lorenzos, the Arpys, the Icahns, the Kellners. Mr. Smisek—as you add your name to the roll of Continental CEOs, do you want your name added to this roll as well?

Like all modern CEOs, Mr. Smisek is just passing through, marking time, collecting millions until he one day departs. Until that day, however, he’s our Mr. Smisek. He has many daunting tasks ahead not the least of which is figuring out how to keep us happy. We will, of course, provide him with a road map to our happiness—and remind him that straying too far from our road’s centerline will put him in the ditch, wheels up.

Item 4: Management Treats Our Service Men and Women With the Usual Dignity & Respect

We received the following from our Council 170 Military Liaison, Brian Boeding. After years of abuse and disrespect, our military service men and women have decided to fight a new enemy: management.

Because we have a “retained management rights” clause in our contract, management is not limited in their ability to do anything they wish to do if it is not contractually prohibited. While the CALMEC has in the past worked through our Military Liaison Committee to try to help fix these problems, the violations as alleged in the lawsuit filing are USERRA violations and not violations of our collective bargaining agreement. As a result, there was and is very little we, as a union, could do to force management from the path that has led to this lawsuit. We hope management enjoys the fruits of it’s arrogance.

On July 2nd, 2009 a class action lawsuit was filed against Continental Airlines in the San Diego District Court. The suit claims Continental has been violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the class consists of Continental pilots who serve in the uniformed services' guard and reserve. After nearly 5 years of constant harassment by Continental management our pilots who serve our country have been forced to use the federal courts in an attempt to end the discrimination.

Military pilots have little to no control over the needs of the Department of Defense, with military duty often occurring on weekends and over holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Our deployments can range from two weeks to several years with some of the accommodations making the worst layover hotel look good. The reality of belonging to the reserve component of uniformed services today is that we are used more than ever before and given the budget constraints facing the DoD this will not change anytime in the foreseeable future.

Sending letters and emails of complaint have not had the desired effect of improving the anti-military culture here at Continental, and in fact the harassment from some of the Chief Pilot Offices has even gotten worse. Treating the law the same way they treat our Collective Bargaining Agreement, CAL Flight Ops management arrogantly walks all over the USERRA statute as if they are untouchable.

Sadly, Continental may end up spending millions of dollars defending the illegal actions of 12 of its Chief Pilots and Flight Ops Managers instead of coming to the table to discuss what kind of reasonable solution could be found because, unfortunately, "Working Together" has become a hollow mantra these days. The military pilots are not asking for special treatment. We are asking to be allowed to serve our great nation and fly our schedules here at Continental without feeling one or both of our careers are in danger because our Commanding Officer dumped a set of orders in our laps for next week. We are not asking the company to pay us while we are away, although some very patriotic companies do. We are only asking that they pay us the retirement benefits the law says we are entitled to. And finally we are asking the company to stop trying to push the problems with their staffing model off on the Department of Defense through us.

Brian Boeding
LEC 170 Military Liaison
bboeding @hotmail.com
Item 5: Don’t Touch That Phone!

This is a reprint of an item we ran a couple of weeks ago. As we move further into our best staffed summer ever and the junior manning calls increase exponentially, please remember that you do not have to be available for junior manning. Management does not own us if for no other reason than that they haven’t fully paid for us. Oh, and they just sent out 308 furlough notices, too.

Summer memories from our childhoods—running through the sprinklers, no school, the start of fall classes lying far ahead in the misty future. Times of laziness and fun, summer camp, trips to Disney World with mom and dad.

Summer realities from our servitude with Continental Airlines—junior manning in the wrong seat, being double pumped on reserve, being told after having days off rolled that the 24 hours you spent in Caracas six day ago was your “24 hour break” and that you’re now good for another six.

We work for managers without morality. This means that we mean nothing to them other than as a warm butt to fill a required seat. This means that the 147 hostages we have on furlough who could be helping with our chronic understaffing are, instead, sitting around doing nothing—nothing save trying to figure out how to keep from losing their homes and how to keep their families fed and clothed.

All of us are familiar with the call from scheduling offering the latest junior manning “opportunity”. But are all of us familiar with this?: There is no requirement for any of us to be junior manned. That’s right, no requirement. When you are off, you do not need to answer any call from scheduling. It is your choice, and we firmly believe you may consider the effect it has on our furloughees. If you do not want to be junior manned, get a second line, a distinctive ring for scheduling, or caller I.D. and avoid their clutches.

Failure to properly plan on management’s part does not constitute an emergency on our part. We are not indentured servants, we are professional pilots and expect to be treated as such.

Item 6: It May Waive—But You Don’t Have to Salute It

We’ve got a real problem. It keeps us understaffed, it keeps our hostages on the street, it keeps us in the wrong seat or the wrong aircraft or the wrong base, and it transforms our vacations and our days off from the anticipation and enjoyment of our leisure to merely the countdown to our next group of work days.

This problem is the hours we waive when we bid every month. Every hour we waive for line construction is one more hour we have to work—and one less hour we can spend with our families. Every hour we waive is one less hour that would be available to help return one of our furloughees to us. Every hour we waive is one more hour that will be used against us by management when they create their erroneous staffing formulas. And every hour we waive is one more hour management can point to to prove that the pilots will save the airline for one more month.

The Negotiating Committee, in close coordination with the Scheduling Committee, is working to address this problem in our next contract. This is one of the many reasons we ask you to provide them your full support.
Item 7: Mr. Kellner’s Pay Calculator

Mr. Kellner’s pay calculator is being retired. While Mr. Kellner still has some months to work, his pay calculator does not. The final tally is likely incalculable anyway given all the methods at the disposal of our executives to hide, defer, renegotiate, and collect special bonuses for their “service” to our company.

Mr. Kellner took millions from Continental and will continue to take millions in the future in the form of deferred compensation schemes of all kinds. He and his family will still be able to use their positive-space first-class passes to bump us off our completely full flights as we try to get to work or go on vacation.

Mr. Kellner’s pay will go on long after anybody remembers his name or what he did, if anything, to ensure the success of Continental Airlines. Those of us here today—our younger pilots—in the future may be pulled aside by their new First Officers who will point to the nose of an aircraft parked at one of our gates. The question will be, “Who is Larry Kellner?” The response will most likely be, “Oh, he was just some guy who was CEO way back.”

Item 8: 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 9: Next Meetings

Please join us at our next local council meeting scheduled for August 12, 2009, from 11:00 to 15:00 at the EWR Airport Marriott.

Our next MEC meeting has not yet been scheduled but should occur in October.
Item 10: Chairman’s Editorial

There is much to talk about this week. I apologize in advance for the length of my editorial, however, by necessity, it will be a long one.

Your CAL MEC was notified this week that Continental Management would be sending out as many as 308 letters to our most junior pilots notifying them of a possible furlough. These letters are required by New JerseyState law. Your LEC Officers believe any possible furloughs in light of the total revamp of the FAA Flight and Duty Time Regulations, scheduled aircraft deliveries over the next year, and our historical inability to ever correctly staff this airline as is evident by the ongoing abuse of so many of our pilots is completely ludicrous and unwarranted. As former IACP President Bill Borelli used to state, “every time our flight operations management comes to a fork in the road, they take the wrong turn.” Or as our Kaye Riggs says, “every time our management comes to a fork in the road they take the spoon.”

I have spoken to many very junior pilots over the last few days. To a pilot they all oppose any furlough mitigation talks. Your EWR LEC Officers are also adamantly opposed to any furlough mitigation negotiations. While we will certainly listen to whatever management has to say—as we are required to do under the RLA—we will not be negotiating any type of concession. We will not put any section of our meager contract up for sale to mitigate furloughs. If management wants additional hostages, they will have to take them without our consent or assistance—and they will have to live with the consequences of their actions.

In light of this news from our heartless management team, I think it’s appropriate to once again quote former union-buster turned union good-guy Mr. Marty Levitt: “Fear is like caviar, lobster and filet mignon. The emotional element of fear is vital.”


Message to many of our pilots: A question was asked last week during our Special MEC Meeting about the number of credit hours waived during PBS monthly bidding. The answer: our pilots waive so many hours every month that, absent this ritual, Continental would not only have to recall every pilot, they would have to hire. Do I have to remind everyone that being in a union isn’t about the individual “me”—it’s about the collective “we”. Something to think about for the many pilots who salivate over how many pay hours they can pack into their bid month like a bunch of pigs at the proverbial trough. Ironically, some of these pilots are junior line holders who may have helped fuel management’s decision to seriously ponder furloughing them!

Last week Mr. Kellner announced his resignation. I’ve honestly lost count, but I believe we are north of 10 ex CEOs or CEO/Presidents during my twenty- two year tenure at Continental. My personal impression of our new leader? Honestly, he reminds very much of one of our former CEOs Robert “CALLITE - We can downsize to profitability” Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson wasn’t a huge fan of the pilots. I truly hope Mr. Smisek proves me terribly wrong. If I am not, then he can look forward to serious pilot unity and labor unrest fueled by the leaders of Council 170. CEO’s come and go and we don’t need to pay too much attention to them. After all, it’s our company not theirs.

In all honesty, the only former Continental CEO who really truly in my opinion cared about our employees and actually had a conscience was the one and only Hollis Harris. Hollis, who spent 36 years with Delta Airlines, starting out as a transportation agent by day and going to college at night, ended his Delta career as the President and Chief Operating Officer. In 1990 he brought hope to our employees: part of the terms of his arrival was the permanent departure of Frank Lorenzo. Unfortunately, a few months after Hollis’s arrival, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and shortly thereafter we entered our second bankruptcy. After a heartfelt voice mail to our employees asking for their prayers for the well being of our company, he was surrounded by the evil back stabbing managers still left over from the Lorenzo days and forced out. Hollis, like the many behind and ahead of him, transited the revolving CEO door at Continental. I was truly disappointed after hearing of Hollis’s departure. I remember looking up Hollis’s phone number in the phone book and calling him (it was actually listed—image that). He took the time to speak to a lowly EWR four year first officer for over an hour. Unfortunately, CEO’s like Hollis Harris and Robert Six are long gone. As an interesting note, I found the following statement from Hollis on the internet from a story about him from a local publication near his residence.

“’However,’ he says, ‘when I went to Continental it was a different management challenge. I learned more about people and crisis management in one year than during my entire time at Delta.’

“The airline was close to bankruptcy and Harris was brought in late in the game to help turn Continental airlines around. When disagreement occurred in management as to how the airline should move forward, Harris chose a direction which supported the staff and pilots rather than go back on his commitments to them. The position left him at odds with the conventional views of others and ultimately resulted in a mutual decision that he end his relationship with Continental.“

Last week your MEC held a special meeting to receive a brief on the STAR Alliance, anti-trust immunity, the proposed A ++ agreement and a complete financial and negotiating update from our Negotiating Committee and ALPA experts.

While virtually all of the meeting was held in executive session, I can say the following: Every representative thanked me for forwarding to them all of the e-mails containing your economic objectives and they told me they read each and every one of them. Your message was delivered and received loud and clear. We, as an MEC, unanimously decided to move forward on a comprehensive Contract 08 campaign while taking advantage of windows of opportunity as they arise to improve the quality our lives in the interim. We all know you can’t retro quality of life.

The following is just my personal opinion and I have no specific knowledge to base my judgment on other them my instinct and gut feeling: If I was one of our very senior pilots who was preparing to retire in the next few years—given the uncertainty of the economic environment, the change at the helm of our senior management, and the threat of the unknown with little or no time to make up for any catastrophic losses in my retirement funds—I would think long and hard about the options available to me. Just my two cents for what it’s worth. Of course, before making any decision to retire, you need to educate and evaluate for yourself all of the factors and make the decision that is best for you and your family; no one can make that evaluation other then you.

Speaking of executive session, I have heard from some of our pilots their dissatisfaction we continue to hold negotiation strategy sessions in executive session. Tara, Kaye, and I strongly debated after being elected not signing union or company confidentiality agreements. After going around and around the answer became crystal clear: there is absolutely no way to effectively represent our pilots without signing those documents and actively participating in the process of what is being discussed confidentially in executive session. How could we participate, debate, or influence, or carry forth your voice as we vote on your behalf without being privy to all the facts and issues? We came to the conclusion that not signing the documents and not participating in executive sessions would be foolish and inappropriate.

It is paramount that every pilot understands the need for confidentiality of critical union strategy. Do you think the company would strategize with the Board of Directors or within Senior Management without keeping what was discussed in the strictest of confidence? Tara, Kaye, and I are all firm believers in the ALPA triangle and the concepts of “trust but verify” vs. blind trust. Ultimately, each and every one of you will be the judge and you will have the final say.

Unfortunately, given the history of some of our union predecessors including some who have crossed over to the dark side, we are forced to live with the legacy of union leaders who couldn’t and shouldn’t have been trusted. It’s a very unfortunate scenario and I share your frustration. However, with that being said, either you trust Tara, Kaye, and me to actively listen to you our constituents and make the appropriate decisions on your behalf as your elected representatives or you don’t. If you don’t trust us, you have absolutely no choice—in fact you have the duty to recall us. It’s not personal, it’s business and if that is what needs to be done, then so be it.

In closing and on a positive note, I want to personally congratulate and thank Captain Eric Hunter for stepping up to be our next SPSC Chairman. Eric brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the position. Most importantly, I believe Eric will revitalize our SPSC and make the changes necessary to bring it more in line with our needs for the future. That is what will be required to provide the leverage for our MEC to not only capitalize on the windows of opportunity that may present themselves as we move forward, but most importantly to build the credible strike threat that is absolutely imperative if we are to attain any of our core contractual goals.

In speaking with Eric this week, he wanted me to pass along that he will revitalize the time-proven and very successful ALPA P2P program. Over the next weeks and months, Eric will be contacting all the former P2P members. Your EWR LEC Officers sincerely ask each and every former P2P pilot to put on your coveted Red P2P Lanyard and ready yourselves to once again be part of the team and very much part of the solution. There is absolutely no way we can attain our contractual goals without each and every one of you by our side—unionism isn’t a spectator sport.

In light of Managements recent actions I think it’s appropriate to say, we are at war and the enemy is Continental management.

As we close this week, please remember our 147 hostages and their families.

“I have been asked why flight ops does not respond vigorously to these attacks and to the various claims and insinuations that accompany them.” -Captain Fred Abbott in the July 2009 issue of the Flight Operations Update.

Note to Fred: that would require an actual response that actually contains actual truth.

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]
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

-John Adams

Excellent work Ladies and Gentlemen......keep it up.
i wish the united mec/lec had as big of balls to write stuff like that-- i enjoy reading every update and i dont even work there-- keep it up and good luck

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