J.J. Schrader

I have a few thoughts on the AAPAG/IBT debate. I previously posted a few of these remarks on one of the old AAPAG boards so I’ll just recap that: I have been “represented” by the IBT at a previous airline ( I still have my IBT lapel pin and baseball bat) and I was completely underwhelmed. Not only did the IBT take almost three years (at frozen wages and benefits) to negotiate a contract, the final outcome resulted in lower pay, worse work rules, lower guarantee and overtime differential, and generally an overall package that was worse than what we had in place before the negotiations. It was pretty much agreed upon that the pilots finally approved the contract more out of a sense of frustration than accomplishment. Approximately a year later, the contract, coupled with the unacceptable representation that followed, actually resulted in the pilot group decertifying the IBT as our representative body. The IBT later “admitted” that their appointed representative handled the entire process unprofessionally and it would not happen again. That’s fine with me—the “It will not happen again” part, that is. The IBT was voted in and paid, as a professional negotiating body, to represent us. They dropped the ball. Someone up top was remiss in their oversight and the IBT ignored the numerous complaints during the negotiating and post contract phase. It took decertification (and the loss of the union dues stream) to finally get someone’s attention. Unlucky, too late!
That’s my personal story, micro analysis. From a macro perspective I am not a big fan of the IBT (or most major “organized” unions) that seem to spend more time trying to perpetuate a political agenda than representing their rank and file. When the ALPA drive was in vogue, I could at least feel that ALPA was a union primarily in business to represent us as pilots for our own betterment. Those of you who know anything about the IBT and its political leanings are probably aware that this union, under Jimmy (“Let’s take these SOB conservatives out!”) Hoffa, Jr., have a definite political agenda. I personally feel that the tens of millions of dollars of IBT money donated to these purely political causes does not necessarily represent my interests. When I was a dues paying Teamster, I also do not recall ever having been involved in a vote approving the IBT to spend my union dues in that manner. I have the utmost respect for those of you who might approve of these donations but, I personally see no reason to fund nor add my “voice” to an agenda that I oppose. That would be the ultimate in hypocracy. I think the IBT has grown so large that its national leadership has lost sight of its charter. I AM NOT trying to stir a political pot, but rather merely point out a side issue with the IBT and that pertains to where they have chosen to spend my union dues. If the IBT affords us an option stipulating our dues will not be spent on political causes , then that is another possibility.
Speaking of union dues………what are the options as to union membership dues should the IBT be voted in by the majority of our pilot members? Will the option be available not to participate or will this be a closed shop? I bring this up since many of the more vocal anti-AAPAG pilots (and some who could just didn’t give a sh*t either way) unilaterally chose not to pay AAPAG dues even though (formal or not) AAPAG was/is the official negotiating “union” for the pilot group. Could this non-participation have contributed greatly to the lack of AAPAG funds thereby creating the “insufficient funds to negotiate” stigma presented as a reason to eliminate a formal AAPAG as a viable union entity? Will this same pay/not pay option be available under IBT representation? Just something to be clarified.
Speaking previously of national leadership, size, and representation…………The Teamsters are the largest organized union in the country. Their representation in the airline arena is miniscule in comparison to its other “bread and butter” hard core, card-carrying union shops. As the IBT negotiations at my previous airline progressed, there was a perception (and I chose that word carefully as it is hard to quantify) that perhaps we were not exactly at the top of the list for getting the A Team to represent us. This perception seemed to be born out by the final result. If we vote to go with the IBT we need assurances that we will get what we are expecting—first class representation before, during, and after any negotiations.
So, from a personal standpoint, you have probably guessed that I am no fan of the IBT at this point. I am also a firm believer that anytime you can negotiate with management in good faith at a local level the results will be more beneficial to both sides in the long run. We are a rapidly growing airline but have we really reached the point where our only option to equitable pay, benefits, and work rules is a hard nosed “them or us” attitude? Maybe so. Maybe not. I am not sure we have accurately weighed the pros and cons of a formal AAPAG verses an established national union. I will attend the IBT road shows as all of us should do….that’s the only way to get the big picture and make up or change our minds one way or the other. Selecting a union to represent us is a major, major undertaking that will affect all of us for some time to come. It’s important that we respect the views of those on all sides of the issues and that we ultimately get it right and then press on together.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
J.J. Schrader