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Magenta Line Saturday August 29, 2009

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Well-known member
Sep 10, 2005
“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 Saturday, August 29, 2009 and there are 17 items for discussion.

Item 1: Halloween Comes Early: Low-Level Management Seen Wearing Pilot Costumes

Tom Stivala—famous for helping to ensure that the pilots of Continental remain the lowest-compensated in the industry—was seen flying a widebody Paris trip this past week along with former Negotiating Committee member Bill Karnes and a 28 year-old former intern of Fred Abbott’s—now turned “project pilot” from downtown. Of course, in her new job, she’s still one of Fred’s interns, she just gets paid better.

Bill Karnes is about the only one left from our old Negotiating Committee who hasn’t publicly crossed over—yet. Expect the big news any day now. It will probably come on the heels of the announcement of Dave Zullo’s “conversion”; Fred told us in his EWR meeting that he always looked for “quality” like Stivala and Martin—and Zullo. Karnes will likely bring up the rear.

Note to pilots: you are either union or you are management—there is no in-between and there is no crossing over and coming back. If you work for them, you are on their side, not ours. The union is not the yellow-brick road to a management job and if you think you can walk that path and end up on Smith Street, we will find you out.

Item 2: System Bid Delayed

Yes, we know the System Bid was delayed a day and, yes, management is to blame as usual. However, we made the conscious choice to give management one more day to issue the results for one, simple reason: there are 140-plus pilots hanging on the results of this bid and we wanted to get it right the first time.

We know this doesn’t sit well with many of you—it doesn’t sit well with us, either. Management loves to do these things to us because they can—no other reason—and it is up to every one of us to remember every single slight we experienced at their hands when it comes time to engage in a legal job action to force management to come up with a decent contract.

Item 3: TSA “Enhances” Our Safety at EWR; Expect Massive Delays

The TSA—which long ago forgot why they exist—has been playing musical access points with our EWR pilots; many of us noticed last week that we’d lost our crew line at one of our checkpoints. Now comes the latest indignity: many of us will be selected for even more useless screening via pat downs, hand wanding, and shoe removal—along with demands to see our “papers”, no doubt.

We are somewhat confused as to the reasons for such additional scrutiny for flight crews. Normally when we are selected for strip-search and bag destruction, it is because TSA needs to show they are hand-screening a certain percentage of their victims—and we are easy targets; we can’t complain or we lose our jobs. We do not know if that is the case here—or if our beloved management is involved in this charade.

We will keep digging—the truth is out there.

In the mean time (we seem to say this a lot), plan a normal arrival time at “security”—and let the chips fall where they may.

Item 4: Fresh From Satan’s Forge: Pairing Number E5291G

When we picture the process by which a pairing is modified until it ultimately passes through the entire alphabet at the end, we sometimes think we’ve been given a glimpse of Satan, laughing manically over his red-hot anvil, creating the pairing from hell. We probably aren’t far wrong.

This recent damnation was inflicted upon one of our EWR pilots: E5291G. It began life as a 2-day with a MEX layover. It ended as a 6-day with 31 hours plus 9 hours of deadhead that included such exotic places as EWR, MEX, ATL, IAH, LIR, PHL, and SAP—some of these places more than once. While the pairing itself has disappeared from CCS, the pain inflicted remains.

Scheduling evidently subscribes to the theory that a pilot in the hand is better than 2 on reserve but do they actually look at what they’re doing to us? This pilot was supposed to be off at the end of his 2-day—instead he’s rolled first as a EWR reserve, then as a IAH reserve as he caroms off both bases multiple times during this limit-of-human-endurance ordeal. What family events did he plan and then miss? What alternate arrangements had to be made? Pack for 2, gone for 6. Sounds great.

We are no longer even human beings to management, just part numbers used to the limit then discarded when we can’t function anymore. We have pilots die in their seats as they try to outrace management’s lust for their pay, benefits, retirement, and everything else with which our profession used to reward us.

While the phrase, “it’s just not right” comes easily to mind, it’s more than that: we work for a management who would use us for 30 years and more—and then discard us as we near retirement after first stealing the money we planned to live upon after we can no longer work. It is not entirely their fault, however—if we are sheep, we should expect to be shorn. Would they try the same with a wolfpack?

We’ll soon find out.

Item 5: ALPA PAC

From Captain Bill Sablesak:

Are you helping to row? Is your oar in the water?

Although we at CAL ALPA are presently going through some very turbulent waters (CAL reduction bid; CAL reduction of EWR base; possible additional furloughs; furlough mitigation efforts; reduced flying lines; downgrades; etc.; etc.) the rest of our industry and world continue to turn. Many of us are angry and frustrated to levels never seen before. So, what can we do as individual pilots?

One fairly easy way to help is to support and/or join the ALPA Political Action Committee (PAC) which, believe it or not, has had some recent victories.

Just last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reversed a misguided ruling of several years ago that allowed a foreign air carrier (Air Canada) to conduct charter flights within the United States for several National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) teams. The DOT reversed their ruling and revoked Air Canada's authorization to conduct these flights directly as a result of ALPA PAC's massive lobbying effort.

ALPA "National" has also been strenuously and vocally objecting to proposals to health care reform that include taxing our health benefits. It appears that this flawed idea has run its course but the ALPA Government Affairs department remains vigilant to ensure that any health care reform bill will not tax our hard fought/bargained for health benefits.

There have also been a few key Administration appointments that should prove beneficial to CAL ALPA pilots. The Senate has confirmed Ms. Debbie Hersman as Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and retired TWA Captain Harry Hoglander to the National Mediation Board (NMB). Both Hersman and Hoglander are experienced experts who have a long history of working together with ALPA.

Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) reached a tentative labor agreement for the union's more than 20,000 members. Details have not been released yet but NATCA says that the new contract should be "very good" to air traffic controllers. Of course, Air Traffic Controllers have been working under an imposed contract since Labor Day 2006 and had hoped the new administration would negotiate towards more friendly terms.

So, despite your many frustrations and concerns with CAL at the local level, you can see that ALPA "National" is actually accomplishing quite a bit of good behind the scenes at the macro-level.

Please get your oar in the water and help row.


In Solidarity,
Bill Sablesak
ALPA PAC Steering Committee

tem 6: Introducing the CIRP Committee

From Captain Bill Cheney:

CIRP – you may have seen it on ID badge of a fellow pilot and wondered…"what’s that?" It’s CAL ALPA’s new Critical Incident Response Program and you’re looking at a Peer Volunteer. That’s a CAL pilot who volunteered his or her time to undergo 16 hours of training certified by the International Critical Stress Management Foundation to help other pilots who’ve experienced stressful events.

Maybe you’ve had an engine failure in flight, a taxi accident, a passenger injury, or any multitude of other serious events. They all affect us differently and many of us don’t feel comfortable discussing the incident with others who might misunderstand the situation. Talking IS good. It helps relieve stress that can degrade your flying skills and your general quality of life. Just ask one of our CIRP peers who spoke with a United 232 (Iowa City in 1989) survivor 10 years after the event and hear about the ongoing nightmares he experienced from never having been able to talk candidly about the event.

Our peers are trained to listen while YOU do the talking—in total confidentiality. We take no notes, keep no records, but just ask you a simple series of questions to allow you to describe the events that occurred. Once you’ve had your say, we’ll tell you about which stress reactions are normal after a critical event.

If you’ve experienced a stressful event while at work, you’ll likely get a call from one of our peers introducing him/herself and asking “Is this a good time to talk?” It’s purely voluntary and aimed at giving you a chance to tell it like it is. We’re here to listen. If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine, too. If you want more help, or know someone who might need some, let us know. If you would like to know more about CIRP and see who is on your CIRP committee and there contact information you can go to CAL ALPA web site and on the left side you will see a yellow tab labeled CIRP. If you or someone that you know needs our help you can contact Bill Cheney, CAL CIRP Chairman at 732-979-4993 or [email protected]; Chris Carey, CAL CIRP Vice Chairman at 757-375-5556 or [email protected]; or, you can contact a UDO at 888-990-4227

Bill Cheney
CAL CIRP Chairman
[email protected]

Item 7: Remember, Remember, the Eleventh of September

One of our Flight Attendants, Deb Calimano, has put a considerable amount of time and effort into obtaining a dedication for the pilots and flight attendants that died on 911. At Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, New Jersey, there is a nice dedication to the people, fireman and policeman who died that day—but nothing for the pilots and flight attendants who actually were the first to give their lives in the line of duty.

Deb successfully convinced one of the Essex County Executives, Joe DiVincenzo, Jr. to correct this oversight; now there will be an addition to the "Wall of Remembrance" at Eagle Rock Reservation. It is a 5 foot stretch of granite topped by a bronze pilot's cap with the names of the 33 flight crew members who died that day.

She asked us to help get the word out that there will be a ceremony this coming September 11th so that pilots who are off that day and who might want to attend this dedication may do so. The dedication site is only a 15 min. drive from EWR airport.

The dedication itself will take place at 800 a.m. The media will be there—please attend in uniform if possible.

If you have any questions, call or write Deb.

Her cell phone is 973-464-8640 and her email is [email protected]

Item 8: Oh Mr. Kellner – How About Some Common Sense Please?

Mr. Lawrence Kellner
Continental Airlines
1600 Smith Street
Houston, TX 77002

August 29, 2009

Dear Mr. Kellner,

As a Newark-based B737 Captain, I am concerned with an issue that impacts our work group and extends to the financial health of Continental Airlines. I am well aware that you are stepping down as Chairman of the Board and CEO at the end of this year and hope that your legacy isn't tarnished by a decision that you might not have made and is rife with drawbacks.

In August, management decided to reduce pilot staffing in Newark and transfer to the Houston base with the explanation that this will help pilots for commuter support and benefit them. My fellow pilots and I, who are dedicated to making Continental Airlines the preferred carrier, have discussed the impending staff shift and would like to present our view of the possible ramifications.

1. We believe there will be a greater number of flight changes at IAH compared to EWR. These changes will undoubtedly require more layovers at Newark resulting in crews needlessly staying at the most expensive hotels in the system at a major base.
2. Junior pilots, who made a commitment to move to the Newark area and bid EWR, will be forced to commute to IAH.

3. It stands that there will be more missed crew trips, delayed flights and perhaps even a greater number of sick calls as a result of greater traveling distances and increased stress.

4. The additional cost associated with the staff moves, at a time when the financial health of Continental Airlines is fragile, is not warranted. We believe that this is being done to satisfy a few people at high-level positions without regard to the cost to CAL families.

I'm not so naive as to accuse management of pursuing a course of action without any regard to the financial fallout, but the perplexing decision to move as many as 300 pilots from EWR to IAH doesn't seem to be based on a solid business plan. We have been told that this is something that will benefit our work group, but we were not given the opportunity to peruse the plan nor asked our opinions. This is the opposite of the ideals of working together.

Whether from a management or labor perspective, this costly and divisive maneuver, intentionally targeting a particular segment of the work force engaged in contract negotiations, will only leave battle scars on CAL. I appeal to your intelligence and foresight to rescind any such staff transfer.

Best regards,

Captain KW Zwilling

tem 9: Anyone for a Labor Day Parade & March?

The New York City Central Labor Council has announced the 2009 Labor Day Parade & March kicking off Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 1000 a.m. with a traditional march up Fifth Avenue and 44th Street (ending at 72nd Street). ALPA has been invited to participate along with thousands of other proud union card carrying working men and women. The parade grandstand will be located at 69th Street and 5th Avenue.

Assembly Location: East 48th St. & 5th Ave. between 5th Ave. & Madison Ave.
March Time: 1:30PM

We are still receiving info from the NYC Central Labor Council about assembly times. For further information please contact Continental’s National SPSC member Capt. Mike Jones at [email protected].

Item 10: 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 11: 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 12: Repeat— 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]

tem 13: 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 14: 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 15: 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 16: 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 17: Secretary-Treasurer’s Editorial

Repeat - But an Editorial Well Worth Repeating

“This Used to Be a Hell of a Profession”

Before departing EWR on a recent 777 flight across the globe, and on a day that Colgan Airlines and the Buffalo crash dominated the news, one of the First-Class flight attendants, in full view and earshot of a cabin full of passengers, asked this of one of our IROs crewing the trip: “How many check rides have you failed?”

On another recent flight, an ISM, after grabbing the hotel keys from the Captain, stuck her hand in his face and said: “I’m on crew rest—I don’t have to listen to you!”

On any given day at any station in our system, we can be told by a gate agent: “I don’t have time to process the jumpseat for you. You’ll just have to take the next flight.”

What do these, and a hundred other slights we are subjected to day in and day out, have in common? They are all directed at the most competent, well-trained, and highly-experienced employees at Continental Airlines by some of the least competent, ill-trained, and inexperienced people Continental management could find to staff that particular position on that particular day.

Although common courtesy is most uncommon these days, these incidents are only about courtesy on the surface; what lies below is what we need to be concerned about—and start making plans to stop before it goes any further.

I have had a pet theory for years. Most of you who know me have heard it before and roll your eyes when the subject comes up in my presence. The short version of the story is that I believe we are treated the way we are by management and by those who work the lower-tier, less-skilled jobs here (and who are allowed, virtually every time, to get away with their bad behavior) for one simple reason: if they can treat us poorly with impunity, and if they can get away with it long enough, we might start to think about ourselves in the same way they think about us—as overpaid prima donna bus drivers, plying a trade they could surely ply, if only they had the advantages we did. The benefit to management for pulling this off is huge: if we think little of ourselves, we may demand little in return for our skills and experience.

As it turns out, I was right.

I got the following from a guy I know from one of the internet aviation boards who is also a Continental pilot. See if any of this sounds familiar:

“It's becoming painfully obvious that much of this is driven by corporate psych strategies. Much happens to us on a daily basis that isn't by chance and much of it isn't obvious to us at all. I wonder if its intended effect benefits management after all or if it is, in fact, counter-productive. Marginalizing pilot contributions seems to be at the top of the list.

“Most Fortune 500 corporations in the US employ psychological strategies against their employees. They shell out many millions to specialty firms for these strategies. Ours does seem to be most effective.

“I took some (Airline) MBA course work in the early 90's at Dowling College. During our labor relations class, one of the other students unearthed a mid 80's AMR (Bob Crandall) study that was quite interesting. One of the points focused on essentially ignoring pilot contributions to the operation and highlighting those of the least critical (cleaners, catering, etc). The stated goal was to 'meld' all groups to a common level. Meaning, the guy who's folding the seatbelt was just as important as the guy who successfully landed the DC-10 in gusty crosswinds. All of it was geared to lowering pilot cost's (B-Scale, C-Scale).

“Another strategy was eliminating pilot-only parking lots, buses, cafeterias, etc. Heavy integration with the lowest paid workers of the airline (cleaners, ramp, etc.). Something to do with self esteem and view of self was behind that bullet point—although it’s been too long to remember the exact goal. I'll let you come to your own conclusion on that one. A lot happens to us that we are not aware of. Yet it changes our lives more than we can imagine.

“Just consider, adjusting Contract 97's first step increment, 12 year 757 CAPT Rate for the Govt's stated CPI (12 years of inflation) would take it to $239/hr from $169/hr where it is today. Do you think all the hocus pocus works? You've got to give it to them, they are good at what they do.”

Yes, they are “good at what they do”. But we are better. We are the best and most highly skilled employees of this airline. We work nights, weekends, and holidays—for no extra pay. We stay awake all night and fly our aircraft with precision and land at destinations with low clouds, no visibility, gusty winds, and slick runways. We get non-revs on after they’ve been abused by gate agents, we make the CASS system work to ensure that not only our pilots, but the pilots of other airlines can get to their bases—or get home to their loved ones. We solve catering, maintenance, ramp, and scheduling issues. We prepare our aircraft for flight, sometimes showing two hours or more ahead of push time to ensure we properly plan our flights over some of the most unforgiving terrain and some of the broadest oceans in the world—and we don’t get a dime for it. We work on our days off—because management says we have to keep the airline running and on schedule. We sacrifice our families, too—we miss birthdays, anniversaries, school plays, and soccer games—and family members who pass away without us at their side. And when a crew makes a mistake and pays with their lives, we honor them in full dress uniform as brothers in arms and we weep for them and wonder how their families will cope with the awful loss of the husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sons, and daughters.

We are the best at what we do—and we will not be diminished by managers who could never do what we do if they had a thousand years to prepare for it. We are the best at what we do—and we serve our airline safely and skillfully despite the thoughtless and cruel comments and treatment we sometimes endure at the hands of those lesser than us in every way. We are the best at what we do—and we demand proper recognition for it—today, tomorrow, and in every possible way.

“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]
610 442-3817

First Officer Tara Cook, EWR Council 170 Vice Chairman
[email protected]
610 220-8904

Captain Kaye Riggs, EWR Council 170 Secretary-Treasurer
[email protected]
830 431-0450

Captain Kaye Riggs
Council 170 Secretary/Treasurer
Director of Communications

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