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January 31, 2011

In this Issue...

  • 4th Qtr. 2010 MEC Meeting
  • Mid-Contract Pay Rate Increases

In Upcoming Issues...

  • ALPAWatch unveils its plan to restore pilot pay

Delta ALPA 4Q MEC Meeting and

Mid-Contract Pay Rate Increases

 

This a report on the 4th qtr MEC meeting held 16 November 2010, but it is also segues into much bigger topic, a push for mid-contract pay rate increases.  Yes we are talking about finally addressing the biggest, most damaging and frustrating problem we have all been living with for far too long.

The 4Q Meeting
This was the second Quarterly MEC meeting ALPAWatch attended in 2010.  The biggest item on the agenda was the election of new MEC Officers; MEC Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, often referred to as the Administration.  As you know, the current Chairman Lee Moak was elected as our next ALPA National President so the field was wide open for a new MEC Chairman.  Any member in good standing can state their intention to be the next MEC Chairman, or any other position.  As a matter of practicality successful candidates usually have extensive ALPA experience. After hearing speeches from the candidates the MEC elected:

  • Capt. Tim O’Malley, Chairman;
  • Capt. Jim Van Sickle, Vice Chairman (re-elected),
  • F/O Kevin Guilfoyle, Secretary and
  • Capt. Kingsley Roberts, Treasurer (re-elected).

 

Capt. O’Malley is the former Negotiations Chairman and is therefore well known to many pilots.

Other members that came forward for consideration were Captain Bruce Endler, Captain Bill Kessler, Captain Matt Geddie , Captain Mark Saltzman, and Captain Art Williams.  They are all to be commended for stepping forward. 
Those are the facts, but the real story is always behind the scenes.  Candidates seeking office don’t just show up, give their speech and hope for some votes.  They reach out to the voting LEC reps (LEC Captain and First Officer Representative, Sec/Tres reps don’t vote) for support.  This goes on for weeks and even months before the election.  Each candidate tries to get the support of at least a majority of the votes and then hopes the minority will change their vote to make it unanimous.  The outcome of the final vote is often known before the vote is taken.  This can sound sinister, but isn’t really.  It’s just the way the process works.

Some characterized the candidates as falling into one of two camps. One camp supported an insider, a line of succession candidate if you will and the other supported an outsider, a person with prior ALPA experience but more temporally removed from ALPA politics.  Another broad characterization of the two camps is Moak (most recent Chairman) verses Malone (the Chairman prior to Moak), respectively.  Others said they just voted for the most qualified candidate.  In this election the vote was split three ways.  Our information has the final vote at:

 

O’Malley – 13
Saltzman – 4
Williams – 4

These elections were important because these people will have a great deal to do with shaping the rest of your career.

Beside reporting on elections, one of the objectives for attending these meetings is to pick up an overall impression of the MEC.  We get this impression by attending the presentations but also by listening to and talking to as many members of the MEC, Committees, Administration, support staff and anyone else we can. The conclusions we came to contain some good news and some very frustrating news.

The Good News
The union is functioning well.  We did not say the results the union is producing are what we all expect, but the functionality of the union is very solid.  And before going further, ALPAWatch wants to make a point it does not report often enough.  Most of the work the union does on the pilot’s behalf goes unseen.  Representing individual pilots as they are questioned by management happens far more often than you would believe.  Your LEC reps routinely and successfully resolve these inquires. The Committees, some 24 of them, do excellent and tireless work on your behalf.  These are all important functions of the union that take time, effort and money.  Those functions, as well as the overall political climate of the MEC, are working well.


We have see improvements in Communication.  More information is coming to the pilots in a timely manner.  Also, DAL ALPA has reinstated the Pilot-to-Pilot program.  This has been an effective communication tool in the past.  The program is being headed up by Karl Bennett, an energetic and trustworthy pilot that will make certain the program is a reliable source of information.

One of the biggest criticisms of MEC in recent years has been an overly top down vs. bottom up method of doing business.  The LEC reps are aware of this problem and most have expressed a desire to change it.  With the absence of some of the factors (bankruptcy, avoided merger and successful merger) that lead to the top down style and new MEC Chairman, we are hopeful that the MEC will continue to correct this problem.  The LEC reps were very aware of this issue when they voted for the new MEC Chairman so we can expect this problem to be corrected by Capt. O’Malley’s Adminsitration.

One more point on correcting this problem.  Your input to the MEC, through your LEC reps, solidifies the bottom up process.  More on that later, but remember, without pilot input they act on their own.
Overall we have to say that despite its warts, this MEC is the most functional, professional, well organized and effective we have seen since ALPAWatch began in 2006 (2006-2009 NWA MEC, 2009-present DAL MEC).  Of course we have to point out that there is a new Administration taking office which will have an effect on the MEC, but remember the core of the MEC are the pilot-elected LEC Reps.  We have seen that core begin as a potentially divided group (merger) and jell into a single effective group.

The Not so Good News
The frustrating news is that despite its capabilities, this MEC lacks the internal direction needed to take the lead on one of its most important responsibilities, pay.  Most line pilots think this is the primary responsibility of the union and they are becoming very frustrated waiting for some action on this subject.  Fair or unfair, pilots use their paychecks to gage the effectiveness of the union and that is why the pilot’s satisfaction with the union is low while the union’s capabilities are high.  The MEC knows the pilots are not happy.  At the 4th quarter meeting there was a lot of buzz about incumbent LEC reps loosing re-election campaigns.  When we asked reps why everyone was talking about these lost campaigns, they all indicated that it was a direct indication of the pilot’s dissatisfaction with the union.  We reminded them that pay rate increases would really help improve the pilot’s satisfaction.

We have spoken to several of the reps directly about the need to immediately pursue mid contract pay-rate changes.  Their responses are ranging.  Some are all for approaching the company for mid-contract pay increases, others believe that we should try for an early contract opener with the hopes of having a new contract at the amendable date of 12/31/2012, and some just believe we need to let the system work, i.e. 4%/yr raises plus the anticipated bonus check are enough.

ALPAWatch Announces a Grassroots Plan for Pay Improvements
ALPAWatch has spent more than a year working on a plan to analyze the problems with pilot pay and correct it.  We are announcing this plan to you now because earlier attempts to implement this are not working.  Our attempts to work behind the scenes to implement this plan have laid some ground work, but now we are bringing the plan directly to you, the line pilot.  Your LEC reps need your encouragement and support.

Our first attempt to implement this plan was to work through union channels.  ALPAWatch was granted rare one-on-one access to the Strategic Planning Committee to make our presentation.  We submitted the ALPAWatch plan to the Strategic Planning Committee in June, 2010.  Unfortunately (and we reluctantly had to agree) that committee was unable to give ALPAWatch any feedback on the ALPAWatch plan.  Strategic Planning cannot broadcast their work to the public and talking to ALPAWatch would have done just that.  In the absence of that direct feedback, we looked for other sings that some action was in the works.  We saw nothing but business-as-usual, wait for the next contract thinking.

Next we tried pitching this idea to the LEC reps on an individual basis.  That’s when we got the mixed reactions described above.  We came to realized that the best way forward is if the pilots push for mid-contract pay rate changes through their LEC reps.  We believe the encouragement and support of the pilots is necessary to give the MEC the momentum needed to push this through.  You will need to contact your LEC reps and make your voices heard.

This Newsletter starts the process of a membership effort to drive the MEC to engage the company about mid-contract pay rate increases, to be implemented immediately.  ALPAWatch will begin to present the plan to you in the next ALPAWatch Newsletter.  The entire plan (not yet published) will be on the ALPAWatch website but we will also break it up and provide it to you in a series of Newsletters, one section of the plan at a time because it is quite long and broad.  Also, because it was written for the MEC to act upon rather than a presentation to the pilots, it needs some explanation.  After the plan is published, ALPAWatch will call for every pilot that agrees the union should engage the company for mid contract pay-rate increases to relentlessly contact your LEC reps on this subject until action is taken.  ALPAWatch will report back to you on the progress, or lack thereof, being made within the MEC.  We will continue this process until we all get the action you expect and deserve.

For now we need you to do two things.

  • Standby for more information from ALPAWatch, but get ready to engage your LEC reps.  If you don’t know how to sign into DAL ALPA, figure it out now.  This is the best location for keeping track of your LEC’s information and accessing contact information.
  • Start thinking about what an acceptable pay increase is for you.  Think about what your bottom dollar is rather than a dream number.  Think in terms of total percent  increase and over what period of time.  What should this job pay today, in the coming years and ten years or more from now?  Be honest with yourself.

A large part of the ALPAWatch plan has some logical methods for determining what Delta pilots pay should be, but start thinking about it now because you may soon be asked this question in a union poll/survey.  If we are successful in getting action on this subject, the first thing the union will do is poll the pilots asking what pay rate you expect.  Although the MEC has a history of acting without your input, on this subject they know they must at least ask.  They believe skipping that step is politically risky.  So get ready to answer that question with a lot of thought and internal honesty.
ALPAWatch began with the goal of improving the functionality of our union so that it could do a better job of protecting and enhancing its member’s careers.  5 years later, and with the help of a merger that expedited the reform time-line, we finally have all the elements in place.  A functional MEC, LEC reps that are in favor of mid-contact pay increases, the improving health of Delta and the industry, a unified pilot group (with respect to wanting to reclaim our fair compensation), a management that appears to be operationally and long-term minded, and with the absence of a number of other negative factors that have finally abated.  What is lacking is critical mass thinking within the MEC.  Without a push from the membership this effort may not happen.  With that push we believe there is a good chance it will.

Much more to come.  This is the beginning of a better future.

 

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.
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