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Well-known member
Nov 25, 2001
Ok I know I'm a noephyte in this industry so help me out. I see a lot of bickering about unions. How exactly does a union work? If most pilots in a company are so unhappy with a union how hard is it to get better or new representation?

Here at ERAU we have a union. I'm not too involved other than my dues. From what I understand it was formed a couple years back and wages and benefits were greatly increaced. Contract negotiations are coming in April. I dont think I will be here for that G-d willing. Rumors are already running wild.
Unions work by bringing together workers for the purpose of bargaining collectively with management. By bargaining together, the employees have greater negotiating power because employees may suspend their services together, effectively shutting the company down.

Unions have grown in scope and influence. Unions do a lot to promote workplace safety.

As you know, monopolies are illegal. Unions are a monopoly on labor. Unions survive under exemptions to the laws that regulate other types of corporations. In this unregulated environment there are few constraints on the powers union have. Much of the debate on this board has to do with the abuse of power some unions engage in.

The World’s largest pilot union is ALPA – the Airline Pilot’s Association. I would guess that 80% of all pilots employed in commercial air service are ALPA members. ALPA has assumed the role of allocating work to various pilot groups at the same employer. Since allocation of work helps some pilots and harms other pilots, we fight over whether ALPA should be harming their member pilots.

Some feel that ALPA should promote every member’s interest equally. Others on this board feel that some ALPA members are superior to other ALPA members and it is appropriate for ALPA to harm one member to promote another members’ interest.

What do you think?
well said

The summary above is quite well put.

The thing that everyone needs to remember is that both the company and the union are trying to get an agreement. That means trying to get 51% of the votes of those needed.

It also should be remembered that size does matter in this deal. An industry leading contract with a major player is not the same as a 3rd tier contract with a small company in the sticks.

Like everything else in this world, coming to an agreement is a matter of compromise and trade off.

Personalities do matter and there have been many cases where the union leadership and the management leadership have had such a personality clash that any semblance of a real negotiated contract were lost in the personal pride fight.

The Eastern Airlines IAM battle and the current United pilot contracts are interesting examples of what can go wrong. Delta and Southwest examples of what can be fine.
Publisher: have you read the Wall Street Journal article on the personalities in the Delta negotiations? You might want to read this:

April 24, 2001

Page One Feature
How Delta's Pilots Mobilized
In Battle Against Management

ATLANTA -- The day Leo F. Mullin was hired as chief executive of Delta Air Lines , he sought a meeting with the chairman of the powerful Air Line Pilots Association and emerged to declare they got off on the right foot.

Two weeks later, when he landed at Atlanta's airport for his first day of work, Mr. Mullin was greeted by a line of pilots picketing over contract gripes.

This was his first clue that he was dealing with some prickly personalities. It certainly wasn't his last. Like a Hollywood studio executive who can't control his top stars or a basketball coach with a team of hotshots, Mr. Mullin has been vexed by the challenge of handling the talent. As a strike threat loomed in recent months, many in the 9,800-strong pilot corps, which is well-financed and impeccably organized, staged a refusal to work overtime that forced major flight cancellations and damaged the carrier's public image.

"I've not encountered a union like ALPA," says Mr. Mullin, a former banker who also worked in the railroad and electric-utility industries but had no prior airline experience. "It's unique in its strength, in its commitment to control, as opposed to participation."

The pilots' tenacity largely paid off. On Sunday, the two sides reached a tentative contract agreement that would make Delta pilots the highest paid in the industry, slightly topping the new pay scale set last year between UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and its pilots. Although the Delta pilots didn't get the seat on the board they wanted, they did get a greater role in setting the airline's strategic direction. And the pay gains come at a time when airlines are facing the most challenging economic environment in years.

Delta's Pact With Pilots Will Be Costly, Bolstering Higher Industry Expectations

Airline Settlements With Unions Followed Aggressive Lobbying

Delta Reaches Tentative Agreement With Pilots' Union on New Contract (April 23)

The 58-year-old Mr. Mullin still faces a patch of management turbulence. Many pilots remain alienated by the carrier's move to sue them in federal court over their no-overtime campaign. And the pilots' union, which has repeatedly outflanked Delta in wooing the hearts and minds of the pilots, will only be emboldened by its success in the contract talks.

It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. When Delta's board tapped Mr. Mullin to be CEO in August 1997, he was expected to mend relations with its demoralized workers after a traumatic downsizing. Since then, he has scored high on a number of fronts, pushing the carrier ahead in technology and finance and replacing its insular management with talent from General Electric Co. and other top companies. But in his biggest challenge of all -- getting Delta's pilots back on board -- he has stumbled.

Pilots, blessed with the time, smarts and resources to challenge their employers, have frustrated airline executives for decades. At United and Northwest Airlines , pilots earned equity and board seats in exchange for contract concessions. One frustration for Delta executives is that their pilots own a relatively small portion of their company but still have strong opinions on how to run it.

"More than half the pilots at Delta could be the CEO or chairman of the board," says pilot leader Charles S. Giambusso, a 50-year-old, hard-liner with a business degree to match Mr. Mullin's. "These are highly talented guys."

Many pilots have graduate degrees in business or law, and except for recent hires, many are ex-military officers with leadership skills and a yearning for control. Though none can claim experience running a big public company, second-guessing management is a favorite sport. Mr. Mullin may be versed in the ideas of corporate icons like GE's Jack Welch and International Business Machines Corp.'s Lou Gerstner, but he often gets long letters from pilots, with advice on how he could do better.

While he reads each letter and sits down with individual pilots when they come to visit, Mr. Mullin believes he represents a far broader constituency. "They never get the holistic approach," he says. "The fact [is] that there are tradeoffs constantly that have to be made at the top of the corporation. That's the part that they miss."

Delta's pilots say that they don't want to run the airline but that it's only natural for them to have an intense interest in its direction. Because better job opportunities are tied to seniority, pilots typically spend their working life at a single carrier, unless the carrier goes out of business. "We're here our entire careers," says Kingsley Roberts, a Delta pilot.

At times, Delta's pilots act almost like an opposition government. Last year, a team of Delta pilots designed a software program that monitors monthly crew schedules and spits out company errors in assigning and paying pilots. The union has begun presenting management with a monthly list of scheduling mistakes flagged by the program. The result: $18,000 to $25,000 a month in extra pay, says Capt. Kim Welch, chairman of ALPA's scheduling committee.

The union has long had its own investment bankers and economists to counter management's resources at the bargaining table. But that's just the beginning. Every month, a professional polling firm gauges the Delta pilots' attitudes on the airline and their own leaders. The union can instantly reach nearly all its pilots through e-mail, easily outflanking Delta, which still relies largely on the U.S. mail.

From the day he arrived, Mr. Mullin has faced relentless testing by the pilots. Many had turned from Delta loyalists to union activists amid a harsh downsizing that ultimately cost Mr. Mullin's predecessor, Ronald W. Allen, his job.

Within months, union officials began goading Mr. Mullin for a midcontract raise in light of the company's improved profits. Mr. Mullin reasoned they had a contract in place and refused.

But pilots soon seized on another opportunity to agitate for higher wages when negotiations opened on pay rates for the Boeing 777, the new flagship of Delta's fleet. Introducing a new plane means a carrier has to negotiate a pay scale for the aircraft's pilots. But Delta pilots threatened to park the jumbo jets unless the company anted up hefty pay rates for the new planes.

Calling the pilots' bluff, Mr. Mullin halted delivery of a big order of Boeing 777s and threatened to sell the few the carrier already owned. ALPA leaders took a hard line, and Delta ended up paying Boeing 777 captains $250 an hour, or about $225,000 a year in base salary with yearly raises thereafter. It set a new high for the industry for that type of aircraft. In the course of negotiations, Mr. Mullin also agreed to an interim raise for the other pilots.

Union officials were quick to portray even Mr. Mullin's good intentions as missteps. Four months into his job, Mr. Mullin made a bold bid to buy Continental Airlines , but the question of how to merge the pilot groups helped scuttle the January 1998 deal. The ALPA contract with Delta would have left Continental pilots at a seniority disadvantage, and Mr. Mullin refused to promise Continental executives he would meet their pilots' concerns. Continental, Delta's most logical strategic partner, instead forged a powerful alliance with Northwest Airlines, leaving Delta as an industry wallflower as consolidation unfolds. After the fact, Delta pilots complained that their union should have been brought into the talks to facilitate a compromise.

Four months after the Continental bid failed, a big marketing pact with United unraveled when Mr. Mullin rejected his pilots' demand for a voting board seat in exchange for their approval.

Mr. Mullin had to cancel a press conference in Manhattan just hours before United and Delta were set to unveil their big plans. He hopped a flight to Portland, Ore., where ALPA's master executive council was meeting, to plead with the pilots to keep the deal alive. ALPA officials stressed the importance of the board seat as a condition of their support, and Mr. Mullin agreed to take the issue to Delta's board.

In August 1998, he called Capt. Giambusso to his office and told him Delta's board had turned down the pilot board seat on "corporate governance" grounds: Board members shouldn't represent narrow interests, and the pilots weren't even major shareholders.
Capt. Giambusso, who had just assumed the post as chairman of the master executive council at Delta's pilots' union, packed up his papers and walked out. Taken aback, Mr. Mullin said he never realized the board seat was a deal-killer. "I told him there was nothing to talk about," says Capt. Giambusso.

By contrast, at the corporate headquarters, many managers warmed to Mr. Mullin's enthusiastic, coach-like style. At meetings, he plants himself at the middle of the table, instead of the head, and solicits debate. He shuns many of the trappings of a CEO. After a mechanic complained about work conditions at the Atlanta airport, Mr. Mullin set his alarm for 3 a.m. and joined him on the night shift.

But the pilots bog him down in what he sees as an endless sea of rules. "We have to argue about seat configuration and assignment processes," he complains.

Many pilots came to see Mr. Mullin and his management team as bean-counters. Mr. Mullin spent much of his career at First Chicago Corp., where he was in line to be CEO of the big banking company before its acquisition by NBD Corp. At Delta, he never tried to revive the culture of the "Delta family" that prevailed before the downsizing.

"It's just not a term that I would use," Mr. Mullin said in a recent interview. "There's a distinction between what I truly think are families and kind of being in business."

His relationship with the pilots took a sharp dive last October. The union laid out an opening contract proposal so high that Delta figured it would wipe out the company's pretax profits. Then Delta, after months of promising "top pay for top performance," unveiled its opener: an arcane plan linking pilots' pay to financial performance and pilot efficiency.

The proposal bombed. Within days, most pilots stopped volunteering for overtime trips in protest. Delta relies on such volunteers to sign up to be on call for an extra trip during the month, in addition to their normal flying schedules of about 75 hours. Delta faced mounting cancellations.

At Capt. Giambusso's urging, Mr. Mullin agreed to request federal mediation on a 90-day timeline. If the parties didn't settle by Feb. 28, they would seek release from the fixed process to begin a 30-day countdown to a possible strike.

Despite the fast-track plan, the pilots didn't end their overtime protest. Mr. Mullin gave the green light to sue the union and 49 individual pilots in federal court.

The lawsuit proved to be a big headache. Delta lost the first round when a federal judge refused to enjoin the union. Then an appeals court declined to set a hearing until Jan. 9 -- after the holidays were over. Delta trimmed its schedule to reduce its reliance on overtime flying, but it wasn't enough to prevent a holiday fiasco. Hundreds of cancellations left passengers fuming. By the time Delta got an injunction in February, the damage was done.

In February, Mr. Mullin offered to give the pilots the highest pay in the industry. Many pilots liked the rich pay offer, but the union didn't budge on the remaining tough issues.

With time running short, Mr. Mullin arranged a meeting Feb. 14 at the White House with Lawrence Lindsey, President Bush's chief economic adviser, and pleaded for intervention, if necessary. Two days earlier, ALPA reported that 97% of the pilots had given it approval to call a strike. "We're talking about something that is extraordinarily harmful to the public interest," said Mr. Mullin in an interview earlier this month.

His concerns were echoed by other airlines in similar straits, and on March 9 President Bush announced he would "take the necessary steps" to prevent airline strikes this year. A presidential emergency board could deter a strike for 60 days while it tried to broker a solution.

When talks resumed last Wednesday under the guidance of the National Mediation Board, Norman Mineta, the Transportation Secretary, was prodding the two sides to settle in order to avert the need for presidential intervention.

Delta negotiators were willing to give on money issues but were reluctant to cede too much managerial control. Mr. Mullin managed to squelch an effort to give the pilots a voting board seat.

Still, the union scored big gains in mapping Delta's strategy, particularly in the area of regional jets, which are flown by a separate group of commuter pilots who have much lower pay scales. Delta acquiesced to limits on the use of the regional jets to bypass hubs such as Atlanta. It bowed to caps on the distance the small jets are allowed to fly.

Delta also agreed to increase its mainline fleet in proportion to expansion of its fleet of 50-seat regional jets. While Delta retained the right to buy up to 57 of the larger 70-seat regional jets already in its plans, it will have to increase the size of its mainline fleet if it wants to buy more.

Meanwhile, Delta agreed to largely eliminate lower pay rates at Delta's low-fare unit, Delta Express, making it harder for that venture to compete with low-fare carriers such as Southwest Airlines. The best Delta could achieve was to preserve some flexible work rules at the low-fare unit and to win the right to expand it, using new Boeing 737-700s.

Mr. Mullin says he's now eager to move ahead to heal the wounds. "I feel very good about the prospects of rebuilding the sense of trust and respect that I wanted to build at Delta." As for Capt. Giambusso, he says he hasn't spoken to Mr. Mullin since December
Generally that is the way the Delta MEC has conducted themselves - they demand - then they storm out of the room like two year olds if they don't get what they want. It is not very constructive
And add ALPA's dishonest and manipulative tacticts, you have a huge out of control mess. Anyone know what the outcome of the DALPA/Delta arbitration in DC is. Should be out soon.
After reading some of the union debates on the board over the past few months, I've concluded that colleges that offer Aeronautical Science should require students to take courses in American Labor Movement along with aerodynamics, systems, ground school and flight phys.

One thing that I don't think has been mentioned is unions serve as a buffer between employee and management. Non-union companies can single out people and harass or even can them for no good reason. This is especially true in states with employment-at-will. If you are unionized, you will have rights. In an ideal situation with a union, you will have a rep by your side and a progressive discipline process will likely be in place.

There are good unions and bad unions, and management that plays by the rules and management that skirts the rules. You also have situations where workers are whipsawed between union and management. One example I know are some of the local grocery chains. The Retail Clerks Union has been a strong union and negotiated a good agreement. Only full-time workers are eligible for full benefits. So, management evades the cost of paying benefits by hiring primarily part-time employees. However, these very same workers must join the union and pay dues. Supposedly, they are represented. They have to walk lines during strikes. They may work nearly enough hours to be full-time, yet they don't get benefits. This practice has gone on for years.

Unions and their agreements are a very controversial, complicated and emotional issue. You are smart to be interested in labor unions early in your career. As you progress, the issues will become far more complicated than Riddle's unionization.

PS-Let me clarify my grocery workers example. ALL of the grocery workers, full-time and part-time, have to join the Retail Clerks Union. The part-time workers carry union cards and are supposedly represented, by the Retail Clerks Union. Yet, because they are part-time, they get no benefits.

I worked part-time in a supermarket when I was in high school. I never worked more than 25 or 30 hours a week. Mostly, I worked about 15 hours a week. No benies. The Retail Clerks were the union, but I was never told BY ANYONE I had to join. I would have joined the union had I been told I had to join. I worked there nearly two years before the union caught up with me. I was told I had to join and pay back dues or leave the job. I left the job.

My wife, who is a professional, had to take a part-time grocery job where she lived before we were married. Same story. She had to join the union and pay dues. She was paid hourly and also received no benies.
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Is this supposed to make me decide to stop paying union dues because those b@st@rds at ALPA are doing nothing more than making the industry safer, and trying to put a squash on management's anti-worker tactics, also trying to achieve an industry leading contract that at a MINIMUM will keep up with inflation?

I have worked at both union and non-union carriers and can emphatically state that the unionized carrier is the way to go. At the non-union carrier I worked at for four years here is a few examples of the crap the company pulled-and was able to get away with because we were non-union and there are plenty of pilots that would take those seats:

1-We had 19, 38, and 50 seat airplanes. The general flow was F.O. in the 19 seater to F.O. in the 38/50 seater, then Captain in the 19 seater, CA in the 38/50 seater. There was not a seniority list so the company would consistently hire outside the company for Captain to avoid having to train a flow of upgrades.

2-At the time I was there, there hadn't been a pilot pay raise in about a decade. The pay for the 19 seater was about 20,000 (around the same as our high school age flight attendants). When the F.O. upgrade came to the bigger airplanes it was a nice raise to 32,000 with a top out of 36,000 after 3 years time in seat. This wasn't bad money for a commuter F.O. The upgrade to 19 seat Captain paid 35,000. Yes, it was a pay cut to go to captain because pay was based on TIME IN SEAT! Well guess what happened? There we're eventually enough 19 seat Captains complaining about the bigger airplane F.O.'s making more than them that management agreed to solve the problem-they dropped the 36,000 pay for the big airplane F.O.'s to 24,000-yes, a 12,000 pay cut! The F.O.'s were glad to have a job, so they didn't dare complain. The Captains had no back bone and were scared because management fired about 6 guys that were trying to bring in Teamsters.

3-The F.O.'s on the 19 seat airplane were the only pilots in the company to not get their Jepps supplied by the company. The thought was they could buy NOS. After a new hire complained about not getting supplied Jepps, the company decided to change their policy and supply Jepps to the new F.O.'s-with the funding for the Jepps coming out of the pilot's pay check-yep, we got to pay for them!

4-I can remember NUMEROUS times flying scheduled or charter work up to 8 hours in 24 only to have the Chief Pilot call at the end of the day and tell us to reposition the airplane-it was of course a Part 91 flight since no pax were aboard!

5-One day, out of nowhere the Chief Pilot wrote a memo saying that our annual vacation was cut from a modest 14 days to 10 days citing abuse of the schedule - the schedule that we had little control over.

6-As a F.O. of one of the bigger airplanes before the pay cut, I was making about $35 a flight hour. Company said that for overtime we would get the generous sum of $25 an hour. Yep, a $10/hr pay CUT for overtime! How did the company justify it? They based our pay on $2000 per month BASE salary, plus $8.50/hr flight hour. So they were trying to convince us that we were getting nearly triple for overtime. What a Crock! The sh!tty thing was that they were old craniums in mngmt and most of them, including the chief pilot, had not much more education than High School. The majority of the educated people in the company were co-pilots trying to stay out of the line of sight of management and waiting for the majors to call. I was one of them, although I was pretty outspoken to the Captains because THEY were going to have to deal with this management for the remainder of their careers as most of them are settled and don't have a degree.

These are just the first examples that popped into my cranium and I could fill this board with many more.

Folks, these issues didn't happen in the 70's. These things were going on when I left in 1998. And this wasn't a mom and pop operation. This is a company that has been around since the 50's and, including helos, has around 115 aircraft!

Bottom line, unions are a necessary evil that aren't necessarily evil. If management could get away with it they would pay pilots the same as bus drivers. It really irks me when someone tells me that pilots are over paid. I don't know about the rest of you, but I invested a lot of time, money, and hard work to get where I am. I have put my time in with the commuters, have flown fighters to do my duty as a citizen, and currently fly for a major. It seems I have heard somewhere that throughout a Major Arline Pilot's career, on average, they are in training more than an average doctor. If that's the case than why should we not be paid well for this technical positon.

Airlines post losses when they buy a new airplane, when in reality that's not the REAL story. Pilots of majors have been getting decent pay now for years and if an airline really couldn't afford it we wouldn't get it.

The next time you see an ALPA volunteer or MEC member, you should thank him/her for continuing the long fight to keep airlines safe, schedules not abused, and pilot pay increasing!

It's not about you, it's about UNITY!

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