USAPA Takes Over Fight For Common Contract
Whether the following news comes as a surprise to you, or not,
probably depends on which side of the aisle you're on regarding the
oil-and-water merger of US Airways and America West.
On Thursday, the National Mediation Board (NMB) announced pilots
at the merged airline voted to leave the Air Line Pilots
Association, Int’l (ALPA) and form a separate union as their
collective bargaining representative. ALPA tells ANN there were
5,238 eligible pilot voters. Of them, 2,723 voted for the US
Airline Pilots Association and 2,254 voted for ALPA.
"I want to thank all of the pilots who fought for their union
and their futures during this tough campaign," said Capt. John
Prater, president of ALPA. "We were obviously hopeful that a
majority of all US Airways pilots would make a different
As ANN reported, the issue of
pilot representation has been one of the most contentious issues of
the three-year-old merger. Bickering between both sides over a
single contract and merging seniority lists began almost
immediately after the May 2005 announcement.
A federal arbitrator presented a seniority formula in June 2007
that bases pilot ratings on aircraft type, with pilots ranked by
seniority within each group based on their time at their respective
airline, and how many aircraft of that type are within the combined
US Airways fleet. Under the proposal, the top 517 pilots come from
US Airways... but the trouble lies when talking about first officer
rankings, which US Airways pilots said favored their younger
counterparts coming from America West.
The resulting dispute -- and accusations ALPA hadn't done enough
to protect the interests of US Air pilots -- resulted in the
formation of the US Airline Pilots Association, or USAPA, and the
call for decertification of ALPA at US Airways. Pilots petitioned
the NMB for a vote last November; the board signed off on the
election in February 2008.
In conceding defeat, ALPA maintained it and pilots from both
groups worked hard over the past year to resolve the pilots’
differences and make progress in negotiations with the company.
That effort failed to yield many positive results... leading Capt.
Jack Stephan, chairman of the US Airways pilot group, to postulate
USAPA may not realize the challenges before it, as that union now
takes over the fight to reach a contract amiable to all pilots at
an ALPA volunteer for nearly 20 years I have witnessed firsthand
how ALPA has helped individual pilots by saving their careers and
by saving lives. It’s going to be extremely difficult for me
personally and professionally to watch what happens to this pilot
group now," said Stephan. "Industry consolidation is inevitable,
and the economy is slowing. I believe that these challenges will be
too much to ask of an untested, under-funded union."
"We will not become victims of this unsuccessful merger," Capt.
John McIlvenna, chairman of the America West pilot group, chimed
in. "The America West pilots are unified and will fight for fair
representation in order to protect our careers and families."
With both groups so obviously eager to work together for a
common goal... USAPA should have no problems, right?