I recently ran for our union domicile chairman and here is my campaign speech:
My name is Robert **** and at the risk of an intervention, I’d like to ask for your vote for domicile representative. When an organization is facing challenges, agility and focus are traits that are essential for survival and success. These times are very challenging for the airline industry but as the old proverb goes, with challenge comes opportunity.
I am concerned that our union may be losing its focus.
John O’Sullivan, former editor of National Review, recognized that any organization which is not tightly focused on an easily quantifi able goal, will over time suffer mission creep. Instead of doing a few things well, it will do many things poorly. O’Sullivan’s Law, as it came to be known, seems to be at work in our union just when we can least afford it. Our mission statement lists three goals of the union: contract negotiations, contract maintenance and enforcement, and promoting professionalism and safety through communication. It is through this third avenue that much mischief occurs. Endless tail-chasing, bickering, and navel-gazing over non-essential activities is a luxury we can no longer afford. And we certainly cannot afford it at almost $200.00 per hour. Let me be clear: the (few) things that Swapa elects to do it should do exceedingly well. The rest should be tossed or done on a truly volunteer basis.
Here are some thoughts on a few itemso of recent interest:
Pay Givebacks: Any talk of pay givebacks prior to the company even bringing up the issue is silly andsaid, he has no intention of asking for our raise to be returned. Nonetheless, the call for givebacks has a good chance of being made within the next year or two as fuel hedges expire. If and when it comes, I will be adamant that any cuts be made equally across all employee groups if at all. The idea that pilots should give up more because we make more should be sent back to its origins in Russia, China, and San Francisco.
Preferential Bidding: I am skeptical of the concept. While the principle seems benign, I fear it could well turn into a Trojan horse concerning our work rules. The Law of Unintended Consequences can be a harsh teacher as any pilot who reads our contract has found out after a chat with scheduling during a reroute or JA. What seemed like plain English only a few minutes before can suddenly have an entirely new meaning. The devil is in the details, but with PBS the details are written in computer code owned and administered by the company. In any event, PBS should be thought of as a work rule concession to be negotiated for other benefits to the pilot group.
Age 60 Retirement: I am in favor of the age 60 rule being repealed but against the use of any mandatorily collected union dues being used to fund lobbying efforts. There are two simple reasons: It is still a controversial topic among the membership, and it is peripheral to the mission of the union.
Budget: We have clearly blown our budget by wanting more union than our dues will support. Metastasizing committees concerning everything from jumpseat to the military are great to have around, but they bleed funds and distract the BOD and executives from the core mission of contract negotiation and maintenance. Conversion of the Secretary/Treasurer position from a pilot to a full time financial expert would be a priority as would the conversion of non-core committees to true volunteer status. Ultimately, dues should be reduced from 1% to perhaps .8% or even less.
Safety: The question I’ve always asked is that if we as pilots feel that our employer runs the operation in such a manner that we need to deduct several hundreds of thousands of dollars from our paychecks to bring it up to snuff, isn’t that a sum that perhaps the management and stockholders of the airline should shoulder? ASAP has clear benefits, but I’m unsure about the rest.
Information and Communication: Spending nearly $100,000 on the Reporting Point and another $214,000 on the web site simply seems redundant to me. The newsletter should be in electronic form only. The Government Affairs committee is a great clipping service but seems expensive at $100,000.
Thanks for your consideration.