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RJDC article

InclusiveScope

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RJ Defense Coalition Takes To The Road, Pushes ALPA Suit


By Jim Ott/Special To AviationNow.com

14-May-2002 9:52 AM U.S. EDT



A group of regional pilots who claim the Air Line Pilots Association is failing to represent them properly has abandoned talks organized to settle their differences and reactivated a year-old legal challenge against the union.

The RJ Defense Coalition, a group backed by pilots at the Delta Connection carrier Comair, claimed no solution to the rift with ALPA was at hand after six months' negotiations.

"We didn't reach a point where we saw eye-to-eye," said Michael Haber, the coalition's New York attorney.

Now the coalition is on the road, looking for support and funding from pilots at Comair and at Atlanta-based Atlantic Southeast Airlines, another Delta subsidiary. The first road show presentation was held last Friday at Comair's home base in Cincinnati. Others are scheduled for Atlanta and Dallas through next month.

Haber said the coalition will be adding additional plaintiffs' names to the Comair pilots' suit that currently lists as plaintiffs three Cincinnati area Comair captains: Dan Ford, Jesse Ashcraft and Kent Dobbins.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and now on the coalition's front burner, the lawsuit accused ALPA of subjugating the interests of Comair pilots to pilots at mainline Delta Air Lines when the union supported a mainline labor contract that set limitations on regional flying.

The crux of the case is the RJ pilots' belief that ALPA was involved in an inherent conflict of interest when it helped the Delta ALPA unit "in formulating a scope clause for its collective bargaining that governs in large part the flying done by Comair," said Haber.

Scope clauses define the work to be carried out by pilots and include job-protection provisions. In recent years scope clauses at Delta and other mainline carriers have limited regional aircraft to a ratio of large aircraft in each carrier's fleet. During the period of airline expansion, the restriction on RJs caused little or no trouble. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Delta Air Lines and other mainline operators reduced capacity by cutting back on large airplane services and maintaining market presence by replacing the larger aircraft with regional jets.

Citing scope-clause restrictions, American Airlines' American Eagle, the largest U.S. regional carrier, was forced to downsize in recent months so that mainline American could meet obligations under its scope clause with the Allied Pilots Association (APA), American's company union. United Airlines and Delta could face similar restrictions on regional airline flying if mainline operations are stagnant or are reduced and regional jet flying continues to grow.

From the time the suit was filed last year, ALPA has denied the allegations made by the RJ Defense Coalition. A union spokesman said ALPA planned to file a motion to dismiss the case on June 14. ALPA contends that the issue belongs before the National Mediation Board and not the courts. Haber said the case is strictly about ALPA's "duty of fair representation" and has argued that the federal court was the proper venue.

Comair CRJ captain Dan Ford of Burlington, Ky., the coalition's leader and spokesman, said another reason for quitting the talks with ALPA was the union's support of the recent US Airways' pilot contract, which he said amounted to "a predatory action " against regional pilots who fly for US Airways Jet Express, the regional subsidiary of US Airways.

Ford said the RJ Defense Coalition web site showed a spike of interest after the agreement was struck between the ALPA master executive council at US Airways and carrier management. In an analysis on the web site, the coalition said "the full impact of ALPA's bad faith and predatory bargaining at US Airways became painfully apparent to the pilots at Allegheny, Piedmont and PSA."

US Airways will be phasing out much of its turboprop aircraft fleet that will result in job losses at the subsidiary regional carriers, the coalition contends. Under the agreement, now ratified by the US Airways pilots, the union agreed to double the size of the 50-seat regional jet fleet from 70 to 140 aircraft. Half of the jobs created with the new aircraft will go to furloughed US Airways mainline pilots, according to the ALPA union.

Ron Freundlich, communications director of the US Airways ALPA unit, said the agreement did spark interest from pilots at regional subsidiaries but most of the responses "had to do with a lack of understanding of the details involved." Freundlich said that in negotiations the union "tried to allow for more regional jet flying," and also wanted to protect pilot positions. The agreement, he said, "stabilized our mainline position, retained 287 positions that were scheduled for furlough, and the company also agreed to furlough protection."

The Comair pilots' suit in federal court is moving toward a motion and discovery phase. ALPA said its motion to dismiss will allow the coalition to do limited discovery to make a response to the ALPA motion.

Ford said the coalition has answered hundreds of queries over the last year from groups ranging from regional pilots to students writing term papers. The work involved with the coalition has developed into nearly a second full-time job for Ford, who flies a regular schedule for Comair.

About 40-50 Comair pilots attended the morning presentation by Ford at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

The coalition won't release information on finances except to say that funding has been sufficient to sustain the organization for the last year and a half. Ford said the coalition does not have a roster of members but it does have a large group of backers among Comair and ASA pilots who have donated money and their political support to the coalition's goals.

A suit similar to that filed by the Comair pilots is expected to be filed shortly by a group of Atlantic Southeast Airlines pilots.
 

AAflyer

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Does anyone know where I can get more details on exactly what the USAir mainline agreement with Rjs is? Additionally what is the 800 MEC number for USAirways.

Thanks,

AAflyer
 

AAflyer

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Thanks for the info.

AAflyer:)
 

InclusiveScope

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VARS #s
USAirways: 800-367-2572
ALG: 800-892-ALPA
PDT: 800-PDT-ALPA
PSA: 800-4JTSFLY
MESA: 800-253-8385
TSA: 800-282-ALPA
Chautauqua: 800-747-2313 ext. 1600
 
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