« American Eagle reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers | Main | American passenger service agents begin union representation vote »

December 04, 2012

APA vice president warns against an illegal strike by American pilots at Christmas

Allied Pilots Association vice president Tony Chapman warned American Airlines pilots against holding an illegal strike over the holidays, in a memo sent out Monday evening.

Chapman implored pilots to carefully consider their ratification vote for a new contract and mentioned that a small group of pilots are advocating a strike during the holidays, which, he said, is illegal.

"By now, many of you are probably aware of a small group of pilots on C&R who are advocating and supporting plans for a Christmas strike as a result of their displeasure with this TA. The illegality of this notwithstanding, this kind of message is akin to a scrawl left on a bathroom wall by a minority of disenfranchised pilots who care little for the impact that such an act would have on our profession and our families―it is almost beyond comprehension. Make no mistake, this type of action would draw an immediate restraining order followed by debilitating fines, liens and terminations. These actions would not be restricted to just the APA leadership, but would directly impact those pilots involved in such a job action. Needless to say, I do not believe that the majority of our pilots wish to return to federal court and face the prospect of a repeat of the 1999 sick-out and the subsequent battles in federal court. The effect that such an act would have on our customers who put their trust in us on a daily basis could very well be irreparable. This is clearly not the course of action that will serve our best interests," Chapman wrote.

Pilots have until noon on Friday to submit their votes to either ratify or reject a tentative agreement with American. The agreement includes pay raises and ann equity stake in the restructured carrier in exchange for more domestic code-sharing and more regional jets in American's fleet.

American declined to comment on Chapman's remarks.

Keep reading for the full letter from Chapman.

-Andrea Ahles

APA vice president Tony Chapman memo on December 3

With the ongoing vote on the tentative agreement, we are once again at a crossroads regarding our collective futures. I am not here to offer yet another history lesson listing a decade or more worth of injustices and grievances that we have both endured and continue to hold against past AA managers. The scars that we bear are real, but at some point, together we must make a conscious decision to put them behind us and begin to look forward.

First and foremost, I must tip my hat to those pilots who voted “no” on the LBFO. As a result of that vote, we have been able to make significant improvements to the original tentative agreement, so much so that in some respects, it has eclipsed portions of the US Airways agreement that was negotiated last March.

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect contract in which every objective is achieved and every pilot satisfied. And we must come to terms with the fact that there are limits to what we can achieve in the context of this bankruptcy. However difficult it is to believe, we are currently in the enviable position of having a much improved tentative agreement that will in many cases be equal to or superior to the contracts currently in place at UAL-CAL, US Airways, and also Delta. In the areas that we are not immediately at an industry standard contract, we are, at the very least, on a path to the industry standard that we all deserve. In those areas where we have fallen short of our goal ― specifically near-term pay increases ― we will reach parity with our peers in a few short years.

Step back for a minute and think about that. No pilot group in recent history that has been through the restructuring process has been able to achieve what we are now on the cusp of achieving. It’s not a “scorched earth” bankruptcy contract. It’s a contract that retains much of what constitutes our quality of life and eventually closes the pay gap with our brethren at United and Delta. Don’t for a minute forget that all of those pilots who have been through bankruptcy have labored for many years under terms that were far worse than our 2003 concessionary contract. Both carriers have been through a merger that has allowed them to make major improvements to their original post-bankruptcy contract, and in Delta’s case, this is their third collective bargaining agreement. In many respects, those pilots at Delta and United are now just emerging from a long dark period, and through timing and a unique set of circumstances, we have an opportunity to reach parity with them, rather than become the next “bottom feeder.”

But the opportunity is fleeting in nature. We now face a decision that will affect the long-term future of our profession and our airline. Should we not come to contractual terms with AA, we likely will face a great deal of pain and uncertainty going forward. We have already had a brief glimpse of what is yet to come in the way of an imposed term sheet, but the items imposed thus far are only the most benign compared to what the future could hold. I will not belabor the downside of working without a contract, at the very whim and will of management. We could be trapped for what will almost certainly be years in Railway Labor Act hell, trying to claw our way back to a bargaining position that we just recently took a pass on at the negotiating table. This kind of purgatory is not something that any of us would choose to enter, but could very easily become our new reality.

The question that we must ask ourselves is just what can we realistically hope to attain while in bankruptcy. Clearly this process is not meant to create industry leading pilot contracts, or even just to create average operating conditions. It is to satisfy the debtor’s and the creditors’ requirements to successfully reorganize.

The economic reality of a mature, deregulated industry fighting a global battle for airline customers means that only the profitable and most agile airlines will survive and thrive. As leaders of this airline, we must at some point come to grips with the new reality of no longer being the “big dog” in the industry that we once were. The American brand has been severely damaged, and it may take a while to repair.

Considering the limitations of the bankruptcy process and the current competitive landscape, I personally believe that we are at risk of allowing our reach to exceed our grasp. We can sharp-shoot the TA and find many shortcomings when compared to what we had prior to the Nov. 29 bankruptcy filing, but we must remember one thing: We are, in fact, in bankruptcy, and at some point, all parties involved are going to move on through the process, either with or without a pilot contract in place. Keep in mind that we are not immune to the time value of money and the creditors who, sooner rather than later, will want to realize their return on investment.

You may or may not believe in the quality of this tentative agreement―but don’t doubt for a second the commitment of those who have been working on this TA that you are now considering. The easiest thing in the world right now is to say “no.” Politically, it is safe, because it is always easier to be “against” something than to be “for” something that involves pain.

You, the individual line pilot, are charged with the responsibility of the final vote. In turn, you will be confronted with the idea that if you vote for the TA, you are going to have less than our Green Book provided. The thing you must remember is that when Judge Sean Lane ruled in favor of abrogation, the Green Book went into the shredder. It is gone ― and the conditions that we now (or will soon) labor under will be in place until we have bargained something new with which to replace our Green Book. Voting “no” will not maintain the status quo―and neither will a wildcat strike.

By now, many of you are probably aware of a small group of pilots on C&R who are advocating and supporting plans for a Christmas strike as a result of their displeasure with this TA. The illegality of this notwithstanding, this kind of message is akin to a scrawl left on a bathroom wall by a minority of disenfranchised pilots who care little for the impact that such an act would have on our profession and our families―it is almost beyond comprehension. Make no mistake, this type of action would draw an immediate restraining order followed by debilitating fines, liens and terminations. These actions would not be restricted to just the APA leadership, but would directly impact those pilots involved in such a job action. Needless to say, I do not believe that the majority of our pilots wish to return to federal court and face the prospect of a repeat of the 1999 sick-out and the subsequent battles in federal court. The effect that such an act would have on our customers who put their trust in us on a daily basis could very well be irreparable. This is clearly not the course of action that will serve our best interests.

The choice before you is to get on the field and have a real say in what our future will look like, or remain in the stands and watch the changes to our future be imposed upon us.

Captain Tony Chapman
APA Vice President

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c2cc953ef017c34454bda970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference APA vice president warns against an illegal strike by American pilots at Christmas:

Comments

Wings367

Some folks just want it all. Pay raise and equity. Wish my company hated me so much...

casual observer

Hey Wings367...me too!

sid

Striking over Christmas is not the way to win public support but it will make the public aware of the situation, whether they will care after they have missed their precious time with loved ones is another matter!

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.