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Wonderful Read. We should LEARN and PROSPER

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Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
May 17, the Delta Dot, and the North Pole

Ladies and Gentlemen of Council 34,

This date, May 17, is a very significant milestone for the ALPA pilots of United Airlines. May 17 for me, for many of us, will always be the day we went on strike. Today happens to be the 25th anniversary of that remarkable day in my life. It was the beginning of a difficult journey but one that if I had to do it all over again I would in a heartbeat.

Twenty-five years ago, I was a 22-year-old kid who had about 2,200 hours in his logbook. I thought I knew a lot about aviation, a lot about flying airplanes, and a lot about life. The arrogance of youth is a beautiful thing. I hope to see that same trait in my kids in a few more years! 25 years and another 16,000 flight hours later, I think I am a little bit wiser—albeit one who doesn’t recognize the old, fat guy in the mirror anymore. I realize now that I really didn’t know much about anything let alone flying jets. I didn’t know about all the bumps in the road that I would encounter in my life. But, again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I feel like I’ve learned a little more about flying airplanes, and the beauty of this job is that every time I go to work, I learn even more. I’ve had a fortunate career, and I recognize that most of it has been due to luck – being in the right place at the right time. As a DC-8 flight engineer and an ALPA half-winger, I flew with first officers who had spent 15+ years on the panel. I flew with pilots that had been furloughed for 7 years. Three years after United had fired me and the rest of the 570 in 1985, I would upgrade to the B-737-300 as a first officer. Six short years later, I upgraded to captain on the B-737-200. I have been so fortunate in my career, as have most of those hired in the latter part of the‘80s. Save for one exception, there is nothing I have the right to complain about. Nothing! That one exception is the fact that I have been working under a concessionary contract for at least 20 of the 25 years I have been on this property.

I realize that a lot of the pilots on our seniority list, however, do have reasons to complain. While we have all experienced the same concessionary contracts, many pilots have been grossly and violently whip-sawed on this property in terms of seniority, fleet, seat, domicile, furloughs, and every other important metric used to measure success in this profession. Often times, pilots have felt they have been betrayed not only by the industry and our management, but by the Air Line Pilots Association as well. I can’t blame them. The list is long and dubious: ESOP, RJs or 400s, ESOP Mid-Term, Contract 2000 and the gutting of our Scope Clause for dollars, the 2172, the Bankruptcy Contract, the 05-02 Exit Agreement, the Bond debacle, and the confusion surrounding the Claim Sale. I’m certain I’ve left out a few.

When will it end? I think that that is a very good question. The cynics in Council 34 will say, “Never.” Call me an eternal optimist, but I’m here to say May 17, 2010 is as good a time as ever to start anew. Why not? We find ourselves at a crossroads in our collective careers. As the Joint Negotiating Committee embarks on the journey to secure a Joint CBA, I feel as though we can put an end to the “madness.” This could be the beginning of a new era for ALPA on this property.

By 2007, I was ready to throw in the towel—I was ready to quit. I was ready to become a disinterested, non-engaged member. Obviously, I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. I gave it one more shot, and I was elected as Captain Representative and Council Chairman. And now we have this unprecedented opportunity. I feel an inordinate amount of pressure to get this right—to not “blow it.” Again. The MEC has to hit a home run. We have to get it right. And we have to get it right the first time. Period. End of story!

I feel that this merger could be the genesis for something great for the United and the Continental pilots as well as all the employees of the New United. We hopefully can add “Industry Leading Contract” to some of the many “gets” the Association has achieved over the years. Let’s be honest here, ALPA isn’t all bad. Many, many volunteers have tried over the years, and often times succeeded, in obtaining great benefits for this pilot group. Among them are: Stopping the proliferation of the B-Scale in 1985, work rules that are still some of the best in the industry, at one time, the highest pay rates in the United States, a 16% B/C Fund, Line Guarantee, a safety structure and an EAP program that is nonpareil, and lastly, a well-deserved reputation as unionists and leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association. As United went, so went the industry.

So what is this “something great” I’m thinking about? Captain Morse has repeatedly said to the press with regards to our new contract, “Delta-Northwest is a good place to start.” That is a start but not near where this pilot group needs to be. Recently, a 747-400 pilot emailed me 1991 rates for the 747-400. I was astounded at what I saw. How quickly we forget. It prompted me to do more research. This is what I found:

In 1991, a 12-year 747-400 captain was paid $197.60 per hour and a first officer was paid $137.70 per hour. A B-727 captain was paid $ 148.20 an hour and a first officer was paid $100.78. Remember, in 1991, line guarantee was 78 hours and 81/83/85 was all you could legally fly.

Let’s fast forward to 2010. The same 747-400 captain now earns $191.79 an hour and a first officer earns $131.00 an hour. An Airbus captain earns $138.51 per hour and the first officer $94.60 per hour. Lines are now built between 70 hours and 89 or 95 hours depending on which fleet you are on. “Back to the future” immediately comes to mind. I am still shaking my head. How much have we all been affected by inflation, or the cost of living, over the past nineteen years? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that factor is approximately 60%. One thing is for certain. We are working harder each month today just to make the same money that we made almost 20 years ago.

Prior to the merger announcement, the Negotiating Committee produced the following tables for the MEC in order to see the pay of United Pilots relative to other pilots in the industry:
Current Widebody Pay Rates versus United:

Current Narrowbody Pay Rates versus United:

As these tables so graphically point out, United pilots are grossly underpaid—especially the narrowbody pilots. It is obvious that Captain Morse is spot on in her assessment. The Delta pay rates are a good place to start.

A friend of mine who was directly involved with Contract 2000 relayed a story that I think is worth repeating to conclude this Fastread. Granted, my friend has a penchant for hyperbole and histrionics, but I believe there is quite a bit of truth to this tale:

Captain Dubinsky, the MEC Master Chairman, in the final hours before the Association and United reached an agreement in principle in the Fall of 2000, was approached by Rono Dutta. Mind you, Captain Dubinsky, the Negotiating Committee, and all the various representatives from management had been awake in excess of 24 hours.
Mr. Dutta asked Captain Dubinsky, “Rick, what is it going to take to get this done, the Delta Dot?” (Remember, previously, Delta had negotiated the B-777 captain rate of $265 per hour. This was known as the “Delta Dot.”)

Rick responded by saying, “No, Rono, north of the Delta Dot.”

A few minutes later, Rono came back to Rick and said, “Rick, what do you mean, ‘North of the Delta Dot?’”

Rick responded by saying, “Something greater than or in excess of the Delta rates.”

After a brief pause, struggling with his sleepless stupor, Rono asked, “Rick, how far north?”

To which Rick responded, “Rono, the North Pole…”

Ladies and gentlemen, the current MEC Master Chairman has said the Delta contract is a good place to start. Let’s collectively follow through on this new JCBA and get it done. This pilot group deserves nothing less.


Amazing. Not even one reply.

I'll give you one: Theres a whole generation of 20 something year old kids that are lookin to get into this business, what will their careers be like? Certainly they have the opportunity to work on that themselves - but as with yours - much of the work establishing precedents is done by the generations which preceed us.

Knock one out of the park for us new kids on the block, maybe through example we too will see our responsibility to your grandchildren.
Obviously there is tremendous room for improvement in the UAL contract. However, this guy needs to understand that times have changed. The glory days are over, cheap airfare isn't going to go away...ever. Sure Dubinsky got them a great contract after their summer of carnage in 2000. Delta had incredible payrates as well. Both went BK. I'd love to be naive enough to believe that there is this hidden wellspring of endless cash that pilots can tap into and live like guys back in the 60s did...when an airline pilot was a pseudo celebrity making 10+ times what the average american made.

It just isn't so. Facts are Facts. That's not to say that UAL/CAL can't get an industry leading contract. I hope they do. But to pull out 1991 payrates, adjust them for inflation and then demand that amount of money will get you exactly where AMR is. Nowhere. The game has changed and there is no going back in time. Even if all Airline Pilots were 100% unified and demanded 300+ dollars an hour, you can bet Management with the full consent of the Govt. would simply change the rules and replace us with Low cost labor. The game is fundamentally different than it was even 20 years ago. We went from being valued and even admired by managements to being marginalized if not outright despised and vice versa. It's too bad but that's the reality I see.
Well said Becket! We have become a commodity, unfortunately, and commodities get cheaper over time.

Go for an industry leading contract! But, always be aware that there is a line in the sand beyond which management will really push for outsourcing pilot jobs. All, of course, IMHO.
I didn't see a word in there about scope clause - just a passing mention of RJs and 400s. Remember how many RJs they banished off-property to get that "industry leading contract"? Think that may have anything to do with the demise of the UAL widebody fleet?

The "Rono, the North Pole" line is plenty dramatic, but carries all the gravitas and resolve of the "F.I.N." campaign. If any of the legacies are going to recapture any of what it used to mean to be an airline pilot, a lot needs to change at every level of contract negotiation. We've already seen what happens when pilot groups get tunnel vision on payscales to the exclusion of the rest of the package.

Step One needs to be adoption AND improvement of CAL's scope. Widebody payscales will be easier to justify when you no longer give management the option of throwing another outsourced Embraer on the route.
The "Rono, the North Pole" line is plenty dramatic, but carries all the gravitas and resolve of the "F.I.N." campaign

Not only that but this guy appears to be smitten with the phrase as if it's something to be proud of. What happened after that BTW? Bankruptcy and the current living hell of a contract. What makes this guy so sure that it's as simple as asking for the unachievable? Did he learn NOTHING in the last 10 years? He wants to get back to that mentality?

What do you bet the poor, hat in hand Rono has fared 10000% better than any UAL pilot since that conversation. Sounds like they need some fresh ideas and new blood in their MEC.
Will ticket prices have to go up?
and that would be a paycut=bad place for CAL pilots to start (except fo's yr 1-5)

They are talking about "almost" a decade ago, NOT TODAY! I agree with you if this was"for today".


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