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June 14, 2017

In this Issue...

C2015 TA2

MEC elections

ALPAWatch, Going Forward

Odds and Ends


A Union in Transition


The main subjects in this ALPAWatch Newsletter, TA2 and the MEC surprise election, go way back to December ‘16.  The bigger story, a major political shift in the union, has been a long, ongoing saga that seems to finally be at an end, or at least, a pause.  Since the failure of TA1, there have been numerous changes in the MEC via recalls, recalls of recalls, interim elections and normally occurring elections.  All those activities are finally coming to an end and it’s time to publish this story.

All this turmoil is a result of the TA1 failure and a subsequent battle for control of DALPA.  Two different ideologies are at play, “constructive engagement” and something that is not constructive engagement.  These different ideologies are hard to define.  Some have characterized constructive engagement as having a top down style, a business cooperative relationship with the company which reaps steady, low risk, small but compounding contract improvements.  Supporters of this ideology point to superior Delta PWA’s (relative to our peers) from BK to TA1 as proof of the style’s legitimacy.  This ideology has come and gone several times through the history of Delta ALPA.

The new ideology seems to be more of a bottom up style, possibly more demanding and confrontational with respect to dealing with the company and as for results, that remains to be seen.  The upcoming negotiations over JV and other important issues on the table will be a good indicator.

Today almost half of the MEC, voting and non-voting reps, are new faces.  We believe their political leanings are split three ways, 4 or 5 still in favor of constructive engagement, about 6 believing in the more confrontational style and the rest of the 19 voting LEC reps somewhere in the middle.  However, the MEC Administration (elected by the LEC reps) is firmly in the non constructive engagement camp.

A little recap

Constructive engagement minded members held a majority in the MEC (LEC reps and MEC Admin) from before bankruptcy, through the merger, through C2012 and up to TA1.  After the merger, that majority began to erode but constructive engagement remained in control until now.

The failure of TA1 was the catalyst that changed that majority.  In the February 8, 2016 ALPAWatch Newsletter we covered TA1 and the aftermath.  This Newsletter is really a continuation of that story.  Read that Newsletter If you want a deeper dive on these issues, but a short review would be; TA1 fails by 65%, a huge backlash ensues, resulting in the resignation of the MEC Chairman, recalls and elections at the LEC level that brought new members to the MEC with a mindset more politically aligned with what had been a minority ideology. 

The MEC at that time was on the tipping point of which ideology was in control.  They elected a new MEC Chairman, John Malone, to replace the recently resigned Chairman Donatelli. Chairman Malone was tasked with picking up the pieces of a colossal TA1 failure and completing the C2015 contract process.  He presides over an MEC that is nearly equally split between two very different ideas about how to proceed, the tried and proven constructive engagement method or the more confrontational style, supported by pilots screaming for contract restoration.

After months of negotiations, TA2 passes by a huge majority, 82%.  A few days later, scheduled elections are held for the MEC Administration (The MEC Administration consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer.  Those positions are elected by your LEC reps).  Most expected Malone to be re-elected, but he was not.  The MEC Chairman (and the rest of the MEC Admin), that just landed a big contract, that was then overwhelmingly approved by the pilots, were not re-elected.  Confused? Read on and keep in mind the ongoing ideology shift.

So what happened?  We know that when TA1 failed it ushered in a new MEC and MEC administration with John Malone as MEC Chairman.  That Administration had to pick up the pieces and go forward.  One of their first decisions was how to proceed.  Two paths were available, start from scratch or work from the failed TA1.  They decided to do the latter.  The limits of what TA2 could accomplish were set at that moment.  This would not be a full restoration effort but a hybrid, a hybrid between the focus of the TA1 (a quick deal with nominal gains, “constructive engagement”) and the emerging sentiment for full restoration.  So it’s not surprising that the results are a hybrid.  It wasn’t quick and while it is worth over a billion dollars more than TA1 it doesn’t meet anyone’s definition of restoration.

Not coincidentally, this hybrid contract reflects the hybrid makeup of the MEC that produced it.  Perhaps a better way to think about it is not a hybrid but an MEC in transition.  The majority of the MEC responsible for TA2 were firmly against a constructive engagement method but they decided not to start from scratch, so they had to work from failed TA1.

MEC Leadership changes

Remember, after TA1 failed, Chairman Donatelli resigned and the MEC elected John Malone as the new MEC Chairman.  The most recent MEC elections (Dec 2016) saw the same two candidates for Chairman as the previous interim election did, John Malone and Bill Bartels.  This time the results were reversed, and it was very close, a one vote margin.  Some call it an inside job (more about that later).  The MEC that brought us TA2 were the same members that decided not to re-elect the MEC Chairman but instead replace him.  Counter intuitive? Yes.  Does it make sense? Yes, if you understand the political changes, the transition, moving through DALPA. 
Keep in mind that just because TA2 passed by a huge margin doesn’t mean the currents of transition were not changing the attitude of the MEC, as a body, before, during and after the TA2 vote.  Many of the MEC members (your LEC reps) that voted to send TA2 on to MEMRAT were lame duck LEC reps.  The political leanings of their replacements, (elected in the fall of 2016, terms to begin March 2017) indicate a further move away from constructive engagement and toward a more confrontational ideology.

So what is driving this transition?

Prior to the TA1 rejection, the disconnect between the pilots (their mood and desires) and DALPA’s actions had been expanding for some time.  The current transition of the MEC is simply the re-alignment of the pilot group and DALPA leadership.

MEC Administration Elections.  An Inside Job?

Some are questioning the way the Current MEC Administration was elected, calling it an inside job.  It is true that there was an obvious and organized effort to elect certain people.  There is nothing new there.  Like any other voting body, who is going to vote for who is often decided before the actual vote is taken.  It sounds bad but in itself there is nothing wrong with this activity.  Also, all four elected MEC Admin members were sitting LEC members, so the MEC elected from within.  That has not happened in recent memory but is far from unprecedented.  In recent history, at least the Chairman was an outsider, usually a former Negotiations Chairman, former LEC rep, etc.  The raised eyebrows on this election were because of the interlocking votes. In other words a scheme where I’ll vote for you and you vote for him and he votes for him and he votes for me and we all get elected.  That’s pretty much what happened and some are crying foul.  To be clear, absolutely no rules were broken and we don’t believe it is unprecedented.  Of course this was the first MEC election after a traditional contract (full blown Section 6 negotiations) in over a decade.  We have been living in very non-traditional times.  For over a decade our contract has been changed by bankruptcy, merger, quickie contracts, by LOA, etc.  Perhaps now that we are returning to a more traditional contract environment (Section 6) we are also returning to more traditional MEC elections.

Moving on to less political subjects, what are some of the factors that drove the difference in results between TA1 and TA2?

  • Opportunity.  This was the biggest factor and an obvious game changer between TA1 and TA2.  Opportunity created by a 65/35 No vote on TA1.  In short, that massive rejection tapped into the true power source of the union, the pilots, and made that power available to the Negotiating Committee.
    • Drilling down into the TA1 rejection, it is fair to speculate that such a large no vote was driven by the frustration and disappointment of the “lost decade”.   Also the demographics of the pilot group can’t be overlooked.  The pilot group that voted on TA1 And TA2 was made up of mostly an older, stagnant pilot group, mostly on 12 year pay (think no raise without a plane change, upgrade or a PWA improvement ), lots of experience with contract negotiations, lots of familiarity with many DALPA leaders, etc.  These factors combine to cause more engagement in the process, better understanding of the details and higher expectations.
  • DALPA governance.  With the re-alignment of the MEC after the TA1 failed, the disconnect between DALPA and the membership narrowed.  Included in that re-alignment was the election of a familiar name, John Malone, known for producing Delta’s high water mark contract in 2000.  His experience in how to bring a Section 6 negotiation to a conclusion combined with the addition of new MEC members that were willing to “hold out for more” lead to a balanced approach between “swing for the fences” and “time value of money.”
  • Record Delta profits.  For several years now and reasonably expected to continue.  Without this fact, there is no opportunity.

Odds and Ends

C2015 Pro Con paper
While we applaud the commitment the MEC made to produce a Pro Con paper for C2015, the paper was lacking in balance.  There were long, expansive explanations on the pro side.  The Con side was short and lacking in details.  Wondering why, we asked some questions.  We were surprised to learn that the Pro Con paper was written by two groups, in isolation from one another.  This probably explains why, when placed next to one another, they seemed so different in style, in this case giving the impression that the Pro position was better supported.

The Pro Con paper should be a permanent component of all future PWA MEMRAT’s, as well as any other issues that reach MEMRAT, but a better method of generating those papers needs to be devised.

ALPAWatch, Going Forward

As the demographics of this pilot group continue to change from "been here forever" to "new guys," the need for DALPA oversight will increase again. For many reasons, we are currently in a unique bubble where most of this pilot group is unusually plugged in to union activities. They know the players because we have all "grown up together.”  But as the group turns over so will DALPA. Things will return to more like it was when ALPAWatch started. We’re not saying things will go back to the way they were but what will be true is that the newer pilots will not be as plugged in as we are now. They have big careers in front of them and it’s easy to become complacent and just assume the union is doing what it should.  History tells us that complacency will lead to undesirable results.  Balancing this negative might be the fact that oversight will organically occur through social media.  SM is fundamentally changing how many organizations do business, DALPA is no different.  Currently DALPA and the majority of the membership are operating “old school” with SM being an odd addendum not widely accepted by many of its members.  The next generation will look at it differently.  It is hard to say how that will play out but it is possible that through SM the distance between the members and leadership may decrease significantly, perhaps to the point where the two are nearly the same.  Instant dissemination of information and instant feedback may be the final component that makes DALPA a true bottom up organization.  That said, ALPAWatch intends to continue our efforts, watching DALPA and reporting to you so long as it is necessary and helpful.

One last item

Please forward this Newsletter to a few pilot friends.  Over time people change their email and fail to update us at ALPAWatch.  Forward this Newsletter to them and remind them to subscribe to the ALPAWatch Newsletter.  Thank you.

Thank you again for participating in ALPAWatch.  With the participation of pilots such as you, ALPAWatch will be successful in obtaining the Union Leadership that the Pilot Group deserves, and in doing so regain our fair compensation, our quality of life, our future, and our dignity.