What has ALPA done for me?

buxflyr

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The latest letter from our MEC in the Go ALPA campaign.


Life is full of simple questions with ridiculously complex answers. Some are
solved empirically through equations and science, while others are more
ethereal and elusive. Recently, a first officer I was flying with asked me one
of those questions: “Why do we even have a union?” He followed that one
with, “What has it done for me?”
At first glance, these should be easy questions. Of course, as with many
things in life, the answer is not always immediately clear. Our union was
created long ago with the simple goal of keeping pilots alive, hence the
motto “Schedule with Safety.” Nonpilot managers would order pilots to fly
in weather that their airplanes were plainly not equipped to handle. They
were threatened with termination for refusing the order, and with an
abundance of other pilots willing to do the same job, often for less money,
this tactic was effective. This injustice resulted in the birth of our union. In
fact, at least half of the founding members or “key men” of ALPA were
killed in airplane accidents.
In the modern age, our concerns relate much less to direct threats to our
physical existence and more with our financial security and careers.
However, without the fundamental stability provided by the decades of
safety gains, these issues would be immaterial, as one can scarcely plan for
a career in aviation when you must be lucky to live until retirement. In the
historical view, ALPA has first and foremost improved the safety of flying
while secondarily making gains in the other primary areas of employment—
compensation, schedules, and retirement. This is no mean feat, given that
in the history of our union, there has almost always been an excessive
supply of pilots who are willing to do the same job for less. In fact, without
ALPA, it is quite likely that pilots never would have enjoyed salaries in
excess of $300,000. Fortunately, through skill, determination, and frankly a
little bit of luck, ALPA has managed to elevate our profession to one of the
best in the world. As a corollary to this point, when asked, “Why do we even have a union?”
the most straightforward answer is actually another question: “Why do you
have car insurance?” The local union as a daily operation is something that
one hopes to never need but is glad it’s there when trouble happens.
Having someone to answer questions and represent a pilot is invaluable
when a pilot finds him- or herself in the Chief Pilot’s Office for reasons that
are sometimes unclear or unfair. Paying dues is often like paying insurance
premiums in that you pay every month, don’t always see the return, but are
thankful when you need to use your coverage.
Pilots being pilots, some will no doubt reply to this statement by claiming
that they have never been in the Chief Pilot’s Office and never will. As
conscientious employees, they will never need the services ALPA can
provide for disciplinary representation. I hope they are correct.
For these and others, I would submit that the state of our employment is
directly correlated to the success of the union. Most pilots seem to have
one or two experiences per year with a contract violation on the part of the Company. Imagine for a moment what might happen if it weren’t for the
contract. How would hot reserve be structured? Sixteen hours per day
sitting at the airport with a five-minute callout or you are fired doesn’t
seem that far-fetched. Schedules with four days off because they are
compliant with the FARs? Things like this don’t happen, and it’s because
ALPA as an organization has been fighting for more than 75 years to make
life better for pilots (and flight attendants in the early years).
This battle has included not only the compensation and schedules, but also
lobbying for things like the NTSB so pilots could have an impartial
investigation of accidents, for jumpseat access, and most recently through
ALPA’s creation and effective lobbying, for the implementation of CrewPASS
in recognition that pilots are part of the security system, not an
impediment to it. Some of these battles cost pilots their jobs; some even
lost their lives. For more detailed information on the early tribulations of
ALPA, I strongly suggest reading Flying the Line, which is available to all
members free of charge. Our union has a proud history that every single
member should know.
Sometimes, as in so many things, humans can be quick to forget history. It’s
easy to overlook those who fought before us and simple to minimize the
contributions and sacrifices they made. Living in the now is equally
straightforward. With the furloughs, downgrades, and general uncertainty
in our careers at the moment, pointing a finger at ALPA is easy. It becomes
even easier when we are unaware of the cycles the industry has endured,
especially since deregulation. When put in the broader perspective,
however, it’s clear that management doesn’t really change its playbook
much, and we still face the same struggles. They will always want pilots to
work more for less. They will always use the state of the economy to
demand concessions for fear of sinking the Company. They will always push
things to the limit in the name of efficiency, often regardless of safety or
quality-of-life concerns.
ALPA, on the other hand, will always demand a fair wage, not subsidize
management’s repeated blunders, and continue to provide the safe and
efficient transportation that its pilots have been delivering for the last 75
years. Armed with this information and these goals, no pilot should feel the
need to ask the question, “What has my union done for me?”
 

nethan

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Enough
I'm impressed. You posted this within 5 minutes of FLs coming out.
 

WWEfan

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I can't imagine how bad the pilots at ASA would have been screwed by management over the last 7-8 years if it weren't for ALPA.

Instead we got a decent contract while many others took concessions.
 

Stifler's Mom

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The Legal and Medical services are a great thing to fall back on if you ever find yourself needing assistance.

My 2% dues are a great insurance policy in my opinion.
 
Last edited:

11thHour

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I don't care for unions, or ALPA. But - things would be even worse if not for them. They are a necessary evil.

I will give huge kudos to ALPA's aeromedical. They have been a tremendous help and I cannot imagine trying to deal with the FAA without them.
 

Rez O. Lewshun

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I don't care for unions, or ALPA. But - things would be even worse if not for them. They are a necessary evil.
What is evil about democracy? The participatory part?

I will give huge kudos to ALPA's aeromedical. They have been a tremendous help and I cannot imagine trying to deal with the FAA without them.
hmmmm..... maybe you were lucky and didn't talk to Dr. Evil.....

MWAHAHAHAHA
 

CopilotDoug

Captain of Industry
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Done!
The Legal and Medical services are a great thing to fall back on if you ever find yourself needing assistance.

My 2% dues are a great insurance policy in my opinion.
I respect your opinion Stifler...I know 3 pilots who think less of these services...but as they say...YMMV
 
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