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February 8, 2016

In this Issue...

  • What's happened since the TA failed
  • How the failed TA caused turnover in the LEC


The New Year is here.  DALPA and Delta have re-engaged in Section 6 Negotiations.  But what has happened since the TA was rejected?

In this Newsletter we attempt to explain how the TA failed (as opposed to why) and, perhaps the bigger story, the changes in DALPA representation that followed, through recalls, resignations and elections, as a result of the TA failure.

What happened with the TA?

To accurately set the stage we would need to go back at least 10 years, but let’s start at C2012.  C2012 was our first real contract attempt after bankruptcy.  Delta profits were high, pilot expectations higher.  The situation was ripe for an ugly confrontation.  But that was not what happened.

Delta realized the potential for trouble.  DALPA had signaled a year earlier that the pilots would be interested in some sort of contract adjustment that focused on pay raises.  So under the DALPA culture at the time of constructive engagement, along with the failure of our peers at other airlines to succeed in traditional Section 6 negotiations, C2012 was passed.

It is no surprise that C2015 started down the same path.  DALPA was still in constructive engagement mode, the pilots wanted a contract that focused on money, Delta was making even greater profits and wanted another quick deal that would continue labor harmony.  So here is what happened next.

Delta opens Section 6 as early as possible (very strategic on several levels) and puts a package on the table that they have every reason to believe will pass the TA test.  DALPA attempts to negotiate more but quickly realizes this is the best offer that a quick deal will produce so they take it to the MEC.  The MEC has to decide if they are going to prevent the pilots from voting on a $1.1b pay raise while going for more could take a long time.  They decided in favor of the TA by an 11-8 vote and the TA was sent out for Membership Ratification.  And if history is any predictor of the future, everyone expects the pilots to rubber stamp any TA sent to them by the MEC (approved, endorsed or whatever).  And that is exactly what would have happened except for one big, unforeseen variable…social media.  Of course, there is more to the story.

Social media is not in itself the reason the TA failed.  It was the mechanism, the tool that provided a platform for cross council communication, mostly pointing out the negatives of the TA.  ALPA rules prevent one council from engaging in the business of another council, a good thing.  So through ALPA channels, you only hear what your council and the MEC Administration has to say.  No single Council Update can tell all this story and the MEC is not going to, which is why ALPAWatch thought this Newsletter necessary.

During deliberations over the TA, DALPA made a conscious decision not to produce a Pro/Con TA presentation.  The need for a Pro/Con presentation was well debated within the MEC but ultimately was rejected in favor of a strictly pro presentation.  That decision left the con argument a vacuum, a vacuum that was filled by messages the MEC could not control.  This is not to imply that the negative messages that filled that void were not valid.  Many of them were very accurate, some exaggerated, some not accurate.  At any rate, it left the MEC in a position to only preach the positive and try to discount the negative, but it is difficult to discount a subject you intentionally fail to recognize in the first place.
Pilots engaging in social media, mostly Facebook, were exposed to all kinds of information, including Pro/Con papers produced by several councils or council Reps.  The negatives of the TA were then transmitted beyond social media to other pilots via email, crew room, cockpit conversations, internet etc.  So while an undercurrent of negative sentiment was developing and spreading, the purely positive message from the MEC was becoming more loud and shrill.  A disconnect developed.  Created by social media or simply exposed by social media?  You be the judge.

The failure of the TA caught everyone by surprise.  Delta and DALPA had every reason to expect the TA to pass, probably by 55% or better.  Why not? The model was established in 2012.  But the TA failed by 65%, a good 20% off the expected mark.  That much of a miscalculation can only be attributed to an unforeseen variable, social media.  Social media basically negated a $1 million sales campaign.  And social media is here to stay.  Delta and DALPA must understand this fact as they both move into the future.


The Fallout

After the dust began to settle it became obvious trying to make some minor adjustments to the failed TA and trying it again could be disastrous.  Real changes had to be made, so the MEC Chairman resigned and the Negotiating Committee resigned.  No LEC Reps resigned initially.  However, unseen efforts to remove many of the LEC Reps that supported the TA were well underway.  The social media platforms that were instrumental in defeating the TA morphed into organized efforts to recall or replace through LEC elections or forced resignations, as many LEC Reps as possible that voted for the TA.  None of the NO voting Reps were targeted.

ALPAWatch spent hundreds of hours monitoring social media.  Initially, the pilots engaging in social media had the lofty goal of rejecting the TA, to their surprise they were successful.  This landed them in uncharted waters with a “what now” question.  They quickly realized that a new TA could theoretically come to the MEC for a vote any day and consequently be voted on by the same Reps that had passed the first TA.  Their new goal became one of headhunting any LEC Rep that voted for or supported the TA and replace them, hopefully with someone that could produce a result more to their liking.  They became very energized and organized.  It was a spectacular organic, grassroots effort in the purest sense.  A little messy and uncomfortable at times but also refreshing to see such a large group of pilots engaging in the union process, many for the first time.

At one point there were as many as 12 recall resolutions in the works.  The recall process starts with a Resolution to Recall, presented and voted on at an LEC meeting.  The pilots present at the meeting vote on the resolution but may also carry proxy votes.  Those organizing the recalls used social media and other internet tools to make sure the pilots voting in favor of the recall carried the maximum (allowed by the by-laws) of 3 proxy votes.  Those opposing recall carried proxies as well but in smaller numbers.   At least one of the recalls that passed would not have passed if not for the proxy votes.
If the recall resolution passes at the LEC meeting, ALPA National conducts a council wide election.  All members of that council vote for or against recall.  A majority vote for recall removes the Rep from office.

The results of the recall resolutions and subsequent votes, if required, are as follows:


Rep(s) subjected to Recalled

C1 MSP  SecTres              Recall Resolution Passed, Vote to Recall Passed,
Rep removed from office
C16 LAX   CH/Vice-CH/SecTres All Recalls Failed
C44 ATL  CH/Vice-CH/FO/ SecTres All Recalls Failed
C54SEA    Vice-CH    Recall Resolution Passed, Resigned prior to vote
C66 NYC SecTres         Recall Resolution Passed, Vote to Recall Passed Rep removed from office
C81 SLC CH  Recall Resolution Passed, Resigned prior to vote
C108 CVG CH  Recall Resolution Failed
C108 CVG    SecTres       Resolution withdrawn prior to a vote

Open LEC positions as a result of a recall election are filled in accordance with ALPA by-laws.  If more than 240 days remain in the term, a special election is held.  If not, an Interim Rep is elected during a council meeting.
A total of 4 Reps were removed from office by this effort, but only 2 of them were status Reps, meaning they voted on the TA.  Secretary/Treasurers  don’t vote.

The fact that some of the recalls were targeted at the non-voting SecTres positions is telling.  These positions could not and did not vote on the TA.  They were considered supporters of the TA and therefore targeted as well.
It is also interesting that some of those targeted for recall were facing re-election in October (if they chose to run.  Often an unknown at the time), so recall efforts and regular elections were almost overlapping.  Those organizing the recalls understood that even if their targets were voted out, the replacements are not seated on the MEC until March ’16. A TA2 vote could occur before then.  They were taking no chances.

In the fall of 2016 LEC elections were held in C1 MSP, C20 DTW, and C44 ATL.  The results are:

C20 DTW  All 3 incumbents were re-elected.
C44 ATL    Do to its large size, there are 4 Reps in ATL, 2 Captain and 2 FO.  Only one incumbent ran for re-election but he was not re-elected.  4 new Reps were elected.  But something worth a closer look happened in that election.  The 4 successful candidates ran together, essentially as a ticket.  That isn’t that unusual.  The “ticket” concept has been trending in the last few election cycles, but not in C44.  Here’s the eye opener.  A strong Captain candidate that was on the ballot encouraged pilots to ignore the other ballot choices for the 2nd Captain position and instead elect a Captain he endorsed, who was not on the ballot, via write-in.  And he won by a near 2-1 margin.  That is unusual.   Winning by write-in is very unusual.  Winning via write-in and by such a large margin is almost unheard of.  ALPAWatch thinks this unique event speaks to the high level of commotion and activism created by the failed TA.
C81 SLC  The interim Captain Rep (recently elected as a result of the recall) did run for the upcoming term but was not elected.  The other two incumbent Reps did not run for re-election.  3 new Reps were elected.


Rebuilding the MEC Administration

With the resignation of the MEC Chairman and entire Negotiations Committee, the MEC had to rebuild as well.  Mid September they needed to elect a new Chairman. Then, with an intact Administration, elect a new Negotiating Committee.  What happened next fits the old adage of fact is often stranger than fiction.  Again an example of the fallout from the rejected TA.

The MEC Chairman is elected by the LEC Reps.  At the time this process took place, one Rep had already been recalled and resigned.  His seat was open.  Other than that, this was the same LEC that voted for the TA.  Several of the LECs that supported the failed TA approached Bill Bartels (C20 Chairman, DTW and one of the 8 that voted against the TA) and asked him to run for MEC Chairman.  This seemed bizarre on the surface because those two factions are often on opposites sides of the issues.  ALPAWatch thought it strange and started asking questions.  Why would the majority want to install, as their leader, someone from the minority and someone with whom they often disagreed?  What was going on here?  Was there a hidden agenda at work?  No clear answer emerged.  Some of the possible explanations (all admittedly speculation) were:

  • It was obvious that the landscape had changed and Capt. Bartels’ ideology more closely aligned with the 65% that voted against the TA
  • If you can’t beat them, join them.  The TA failed.  Let’s try another approach
  • ALPA National was encouraging DALPA to do whatever was necessary to get things back on track; presumably out of concern over the energy DPA was enjoying from the failed TA.

Capt. Bartels was skeptical and let all the voting Reps know that he had no interest in putting himself forward unless they were serious.  He was assured they were, so he agreed to run.

Sometime later, Capt. John Malone announced his candidacy for MEC Chairman.  As late as the night before the election Capt. Bartels was assured that he had the support of those that approached him to run and a large majority of the MEC.  The next day, votes changed and Capt. Malone was elected MEC Chairman.

ALPAWatch’s analysis of what happened offers this perspective.  We don’t think those that asked and initially supported Capt. Bartels ever really wanted him to be the Chairman.  We think they reluctantly agreed to support him for the Chairmanship because doing so offered one of the best paths going forward.  They knew the game had changed and if they did not yield to the 65% that voted against the TA, DALPA could be in real trouble.  So it became a case of what would best heal the organization and offer some path to unity going forward.  But then Capt. Malone came into the picture.  His candidacy was well accepted by the social media crowed, which carried a lot of weight in the wake of the TA rejection.  Capt. Malone carries with him the name recognition of being the Negotiation Committee Chairman for the Delta C2K contract, the as yet high water mark for the Delta pilots.  He went on to be the MEC Chairman.  We think the same group of LEC Reps that were prepared to vote for Capt. Bartels saw a way to satisfy the 65% but not elect someone that was never their personal first choice.  So at the last moment they changed their vote.

We wondered if there was some kind of backroom deal made.   Seems like an obvious possibility.  We researched it thoroughly and found absolutely no evidence of a deal or anything nefarious.  We would be remiss not to mention the topic but want to make it clear to every pilot that Captain Malone was an experienced and qualified candidate for MEC Chairman and his election was completely above board.  Additionally, our inquires indicate he is well accepted by the current MEC.   We think the unusual circumstances leading up to his election can be dismissed by an explanation as simple as the analysis above.


A different MEC

The direct result of the recall effort replaced 2 voting Reps.  Indirectly, by election, 4 more voting Reps.  We say indirectly because only one targeted supporter of the TA chose to run for re-election.  But that does not paint the whole story.  Those organizing and participating in the recall efforts most certainly influenced the elections.  They used social media to support some candidates, denounce others and get out the vote.  Net effect. Today, 2 of the Reps that voted FOR the TA have changed.  March 1st (the date newly elected Reps take office) that number increases to 6.  Any TA that comes before this MEC will be achieved by a different Negotiating Committee, accepted by a different MEC Chairman and ultimately voted on by a substantially different MEC.  Not just different people, but different in mindset and expectations.


Did the negotiators fail us on the first TA?

You might be surprised that we say no.  You have to understand that they were given the task of playing a game of chess with the board already set against them.  As we mentioned before, opening negotiations early offers Delta a strategic advantage.  Under Section 6, both parties are required to negotiate.  But the “or else” portion that requirement implies does not come into effect for many months or years.  By opening early and quickly offering the TA package they did, Delta could treat it as a take it or leave it offer for many months or even over a year.  So where were the negotiators supposed to go with that?  Keep in mind the expected path for these negotiations.  ALPA keeps their ask reasonable, Delta makes a quick offer, the union pushes it through.  The chess board was set for a predictable conclusion before the game ever started.

They did do their due diligence.  If not prepared, Delta could have easily taken advantage of the situation.  They were prepared and did their best to slice the pie in accordance with the wishes (polls, survey) of the pilots, but they couldn’t make the quick offer pie any bigger. 

Knowing that this was the best deal Delta was going to offer for some time, the Negotiating Committee had to take the offer to the MEC.  The MEC once again made the judgment decision that accepting a fast incremental increase, warts and all, was a better, safer, faster course than going for what the pilots really wanted, full restoration.


How long will it take to get another TA?

We don’t know.  We’ve told you all we know.  At this point, 3 months, 3 years or anything in between seem equally possible.  To say more would be a total speculation.


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.