Special Really Late Edition of The Magenta Line
Today is Friday, May 29, 2009 and there are 10 items for discussion.
Item 1: As it Turn Out, a “Voyage” is a “Voyage”—and “Contact” is Actually “Contact”
We know you are familiar with our EWR-NRT crew from a couple of weeks ago. We are happy to report this issue resolved—with a couple of conditions. What could have and should have been handled locally between your Council 170 officers and Captain Fred Stankovich was, instead, elevated to the highest levels of our union for resolution. We were confident from the beginning that Captain Stankovich’s skewed view of things would not ultimately stand up to the scrutiny such things are given when they are looked at and judged by reasonable and unbiased people.
The settlement reached with senior management includes:
No discipline or record of this incident in anyone’s P-10 file
An arbitration to determine who was right and who was wrong
A repayment plan for our pilots should they lose the arbitration
While it may seem useless for management to ask for an arbitration in what is clearly a safety-related case, we nevertheless welcome it. A positive ruling for our pilots, which we believe is the most likely outcome, strengthens us going forward whenever a misguided management missile is fired at us. A negative ruling, which we believe is unlikely, provides us with certain other weapons in our battle against petty and mean-spirited management—which is too often the normal way of business for our Chief Pilot offices these days.
From the day this unfortunate chain of events was dropped in our laps, your EWR officers worked in close cooperation with our MEC leadership, especially Chuck Cummins, to bring it to a successful close. We worked the local angle against Captain Stankovich as far as we could. Once Fred dug his heels in and refused to be reasonable, the MEC officers took over and carried it to the highest levels of management where it was resolved. We kept the fire under management lit and stoked it every week in The Magenta Line. Whenever a little more heat was needed, we were happy to throw a few more logs under Stankovich and Abbott. Heat rises, and the fires we lit locally eventually rose all the way to the top of Smith Street.
We are happy that this unfortunate incident will soon be just another chapter in how not to treat our pilots.
We are unhappy that we still have in place low-level flight operations management, from Fred Abbott on down, who have long forgotten they were ever pilots—and who conduct their business with us as if they had never been at the controls of an aircraft or responsible for the decisions we, as pilots, make every day. We are unhappy that our supervisors see themselves as our overseers and view our defeat as their success.
Fred Stankovich could have cut this one off at the pass, he could have been a pilot advocate, he could have taken his responsibilities to both the pilots and management seriously. Had he done these things, this affair would not have blown sky-high as it did. He could have taken Captain Vireilha’s advice and swapped the Tel Aviv crew for his; both trips would have operated and this would have become just another anecdote, good for retelling over dinner with the crew. Instead, Captain Stankovich’s actions ensured that not only was upper management forced to become involved, so was the Japanese government in both New York and Tokyo.
The duty-officer day started happily for Captain Stankovich as a wedding guest surrounded by friends and family—and ended in quite another way. Because he was impatient his day had been interrupted, he forced a crew into an untenable position—and he will ultimately pay the price other supervisors have paid for making similar bad decisions. His future actions will be scrutinized at the highest levels by those who had to clean up his mess—and they aren’t supposed to clean up messes. They hire guys like Fred Stankovich to do that.
Item 2: Captain Sees Red After Seeing Red Bracelet
Yesterday, one of our EWR Captains made one of those career-defining decisions—or maybe it really wasn’t all that, just something that will be talked about for years to come—and not in a good way.
Our Captain made the decision to tell a First Officer he was just about to fly a multi-day trip with to—get ready for it—take off her red FUPM bracelet or... or what? Not content with hurling this low-wattage lightning bolt, he made every effort to compound his tantrum by calling the Chief Pilot’s office seeking support for his “thinking”. The First Officer, making the rational decision that her relationship with this Captain was now tainted and essentially unrecoverable, asked to be removed from the trip. She was. Although she was initially given an emergency drop without pay, after intervention by our union leadership, she has now been paid. Management recognized that she was not at fault and, try as they may, could not justify not paying her.
Today, this Captain has likely elevated himself to Platinum status on the PBS “avoid flying with” list. We also heard that the CalForums thread dealing with this situation had so many hits it brought down the server.
Before we get knee-deep in the hoopla, let us first say that we fully support a Captain’s right to run his cockpit the way he wants—as long as he runs it in a responsible manner and does not create an uncomfortable or hostile environment for those he works with. In our Captain’s opinion, the FUPM bracelet is offensive. OK, what about those yellow Livestrong bracelets? What about an American flag pin on a coat lapel? What about the MD-80 stickers some of our pilots have on their flight kit bags? I mean, if anything is offensive, it’s got to be an MD-80 sticker—that whole airplane was offensive. The point is that there are other things to get wound up about—like, for example, the management philosophy that gave birth to the FUPM bracelets in the first place.
Fred Abbott has told us that while he does not like the FUPM bracelets (imagine that) he will do nothing to stop them. We applaud this dose of sanity from flight ops management—and encourage our side of the fence to fight the common enemy—which is not the guy or gal sitting across from you in the cockpit.
Item 3: Captains? BE CAPTAINS!
We started to hammer this last week and a couple of events since have highlighted this issue yet again.
We get paid to command and make command decisions. We are given all the tools we need in the FAR’s. Sometimes even the Ops Manual helps us out. We just had out NRT crew get paid and while management seems to think the Captain did not make the right decision, an arbitrator surely will.
The point is this: everything this airline does, from selling tickets, to cleaning the lavs, to catering the airplanes, to checking baggage in at curbside, is designed to do one thing: move people from A to B. And in the process of moving those people from A to B there is only one place on the airplane where every decision from outside the airplane can be accepted, modified, or overridden. It’s the ultimate place for stopping the buck: the left seat.
For far too long, we have allowed others to make our decisions for us. The Ops Manual has grown over the years from a couple of hundred or so pages to almost 1,000 pages today. Most of that growth was an attempt to diminish us as pilots and substitute canned words and responses for cockpit judgments and decisions.
We must decide: Do we want to be paid and treated as skilled and responsible professionals? Or are we content to be labor, operating our heavy equipment in the manner we are directed to by management and subject to their whims when we stray from the path they set for us—sometimes after the fact?
If you are faced with a decision, if you have to make a call, if you are treated with disrespect by your flight attendants, your ground crew, your caterers, your schedulers—or your supervisors—remember who and what you are: you are The Captain—and you are In Command of the aircraft. Command is sometimes an unpleasant task, and sometimes you must make decisions that will not be popular—but that is why you command instead of take a popular vote.
First Officers, you aren’t off the hook, either. Monitor and respectfully challenge your Captain if you see him shying from decisions or failing to stand up for his crew. We monitor and challenge when we manage threats and errors when we fly, why not do it outside the airplane, too? We can take control of our profession again—but every one of us has to make it happen; it will not be given back to us freely.
Item 4: Mr. Kellner’s Pay Calculator
Mr. Kellner did what he was supposed to this week: he overrode a poor decision by his flight ops managers and worked with our MEC leadership to solve the problem. So he gets a pass.
According to Forbes Magazine (April 30, 2008 issue) Mr. Kellner’s total compensation for 2007 was 10.3 million dollars. Extrapolating forward, this means that Mr. Kellner has made:
This week: $198,072.00
May 1, 2009 to date: $792,288.00
2009 year to date: $3,904,848.00
Item 5: No Summer of Love For You!
Despite the coming (or already arrived, depending on who you listen to) management proclamations of this being the “best staffed summer ever!”, we all know the truth is that it’s going to bite just like the last 25 or so summers at Continental Airlines. While management has computing power to the Nth degree, staffing formulas that would cause Stephen Hawking to shake his head (if he could) in bewilderment, and a traditionally empty summer school house, there will not be enough pilots to go around the system.
Now would be a good time to dust off the doorstop, open it up, and start to learn the contract. The UDO’s will be answering a zillion calls this summer so help them by helping yourself and KNOW THE CONTRACT!
And, please—do not call the UDO’s for other than truly time-critical problems.
Item 6: Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? Again.
In this week’s installment of the flight attendant hotel room confiscation plan update, we have this: Nothing. Yes, nothing.
We have discovered that the joint bulletin recently issued and just as recently rescinded is of no consequence. Yes, that’s because the flight attendants have it in their inflight manual that the ISM jumps ahead of some of our pilots. So while we have no bulletin, they have a manual.
The blame for this unbelievably sorry state of affairs rests with the usual suspects: Fred Abbott, Mike Bonds, and Tom (gag) Stivala.
If you’ve wondered why the flight attendants seem to be running flight operations these days, it may be because they are. Or at least that’s the determination you might make upon observing flight operations management. Fred Abbott, who could put out a bulletin telling the flight attendants to sit quietly in the back, has instead chosen a course of—nowhere. He is either too weak or too afraid of crossing the fearsome flight attendants or the HR department—ruled by Bonds and (gag) Stivala. Fred Abbott, who long ago forgot about being a pilot, has also forgotten about part of his current job, too—that of being an advocate for his pilots.
Nature abhors a vacuum—so, too, do our flight attendants. In the absence of a policy contradicting their designs on the layover rooms that should go to our pilots, they have neatly filled the void with a manual section giving them their choice.
And our flight operations management sits quietly by.
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Another reminder that if you want the contract of your career, you must invest a couple of days of your time to get it. That next day is coming soon. It is critical to the success of our Contract ’08 efforts that you make plans to take June 10th off and get to Houston!
Unionism is a contact sport and management must feel your elbow in their gut. All the complaining about SPSC must now end and you must put your volunteerism where your complaints used to be. This is the most critical union event yet and we need massive numbers of pilot’s shoes on the ground to show our management team what we think of them and what we are willing to do to make Contract ’08 the real “contract of our careers”.
As we’ve mentioned, there is a friendly wager between EWR and IAH as to who will bring the most pilots to Houston on June 10th. While the sporting aspects of this event are interesting and fun, the real attraction is in the numbers we show management. Management thinks you won’t “waste” a day off to get the contract of your career. We know differently.
We have received a few reports of trouble using the site. If you have any difficulties with the sign-up, please call the union office at (281) 987-3636
There are no excuses for not attending.
Item 8: Request for Committee Volunteers
All of our committees need volunteers. If you are one of the many somewhat selfish and untested among us, if you are interested in committee work, if you have special artistic talents of any kind, or if you just like to chew the legs off your dining room table, we want you to help your fellow EWR pilots. If you are interested or have previously expressed interest via e-mail or a phone call, please confirm your continuing interest in an e-mail to Captain Kaye Riggs, Secretary-Treasurer, LEC 170 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put your name and the word “Volunteer” in the subject line.
Item 9: Next Meetings
Please join us at our next local council meeting. Check back here in a couple of weeks for the date.
Our next MEC meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Item 10: Secretary-Treasurer’s Editorial
“This Used to Be a Hell of a Profession”
Before departing EWR on a recent 777 flight across the globe, and on a day that Colgan Airlines and the Buffalo crash dominated the news, one of the First-Class flight attendants, in full view and earshot of a cabin full of passengers, asked this of one of our IROs crewing the trip: “How many check rides have you failed?”
On another recent flight, an ISM, after grabbing the hotel keys from the Captain, stuck her hand in his face and said: “I’m on crew rest—I don’t have to listen to you!”
On any given day at any station in our system, we can be told by a gate agent: “I don’t have time to process the jumpseat for you. You’ll just have to take the next flight.”
What do these, and a hundred other slights we are subjected to day in and day out, have in common? They are all directed at the most competent, well-trained, and highly-experienced employees at Continental Airlines by some of the least competent, ill-trained, and inexperienced people Continental management could find to staff that particular position on that particular day.
Although common courtesy is most uncommon these days, these incidents are only about courtesy on the surface; what lies below is what we need to be concerned about—and start making plans to stop before it goes any further.
I have had a pet theory for years. Most of you who know me have heard it before and roll your eyes when the subject comes up in my presence. The short version of the story is that I believe we are treated the way we are by management and by those who work the lower-tier, less-skilled jobs here (and who are allowed, virtually every time, to get away with their bad behavior) for one simple reason: if they can treat us poorly with impunity, and if they can get away with it long enough, we might start to think about ourselves in the same way they think about us—as overpaid prima donna bus drivers, plying a trade they could surely ply, if only they had the advantages we did. The benefit to management for pulling this off is huge: if we think little of ourselves, we may demand little in return for our skills and experience.
As it turns out, I was right.
I got the following from a guy I know from one of the internet aviation boards who is also a Continental pilot. See if any of this sounds familiar:
“It's becoming painfully obvious that much of this is driven by corporate psych strategies. Much happens to us on a daily basis that isn't by chance and much of it isn't obvious to us at all. I wonder if its intended effect benefits management after all or if it is, in fact, counter-productive. Marginalizing pilot contributions seems to be at the top of the list.
“Most Fortune 500 corporations in the US employ psychological strategies against their employees. They shell out many millions to specialty firms for these strategies. Ours does seem to be most effective.
“I took some (Airline) MBA course work in the early 90's at DowlingCollege. During our labor relations class, one of the other students unearthed a mid 80's AMR (Bob Crandall) study that was quite interesting. One of the points focused on essentially ignoring pilot contributions to the operation and highlighting those of the least critical (cleaners, catering, etc). The stated goal was to 'meld' all groups to a common level. Meaning, the guy who's folding the seatbelt was just as important as the guy who successfully landed the DC-10 in gusty crosswinds. All of it was geared to lowering pilot cost's (B-Scale, C-Scale).
“Another strategy was eliminating pilot-only parking lots, buses, cafeterias, etc. Heavy integration with the lowest paid workers of the airline (cleaners, ramp, etc.). Something to do with self esteem and view of self was behind that bullet point—although it’s been too long to remember the exact goal. I'll let you come to your own conclusion on that one. A lot happens to us that we are not aware of. Yet it changes our lives more than we can imagine.
“Just consider, adjusting Contract 97's first step increment, 12 year 757 CAPT Rate for the Govt's stated CPI (12 years of inflation) would take it to $239/hr from $169/hr where it is today. Do you think all the hocus pocus works? You've got to give it to them, they are good at what they do.”
Yes, they are “good at what they do”. But we are better. We are the best and most highly skilled employees of this airline. We work nights, weekends, and holidays—for no extra pay. We stay awake all night and fly our aircraft with precision and land at destinations with low clouds, no visibility, gusty winds, and slick runways. We get non-revs on after they’ve been abused by gate agents, we make the CASS system work to ensure that not only our pilots, but the pilots of other airlines can get to their bases—or get home to their loved ones. We solve catering, maintenance, ramp, and scheduling issues. We prepare our aircraft for flight, sometimes showing two hours or more ahead of push time to ensure we properly plan our flights over some of the most unforgiving terrain and some of the broadest oceans in the world—and we don’t get a dime for it. We work on our days off—because management says we have to keep the airline running and on schedule. We sacrifice our families, too—we miss birthdays, anniversaries, school plays, and soccer games—and family members who pass away without us at their side. And when a crew makes a mistake and pays with their lives, we honor them in full dress uniform as brothers in arms and we weep for them and wonder how their families will cope with the awful loss of the husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sons, and daughters.
We are the best at what we do—and we will not be diminished by managers who could never do what we do if they had a thousand years to prepare for it. We are the best at what we do—and we serve our airline safely and skillfully despite the thoughtless and cruel comments and treatment we sometimes endure at the hands of those lesser than us in every way. We are the best at what we do—and we demand proper recognition for it—today, tomorrow, and in every possible way.
As we close this week, please remember our 147 hostages and their families.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. There are plenty of management decisions made at plenty of companies that would probably be reversed if they were exposed to the light of day - things sometimes look very different when taken in a context all by themselves.
Fantastic stuff. Exactly how I've run my show for the last 21 years, and exactly how I'll continue to run it.
Since as a DAL-S kind of a guy I won't be flying the -400 with you, I wish I could. You are exactly the kind of guy that will keep this profession and the new bigger (and hopefully better) DAL a great place.
When you chose to not attend the Smith Street event, did ALPA still pay you?
No they didn't. For personal reasons I resigned from our SPSC committee in May 08. The flight pay loss I had for the June event was removed in May before the June bid period, thus no flight pay loss for the June 08 SPSC Smith street event.
What you are referring to, the flight pay loss in May 08 when I resigned. I tried for months to fly back the time I owed, however unlike many others past I wasn't given the ability to fly back (essentially flying trips and not being paid, having my pay for the flying sent to the union) the time I owed. Since I wasn't given that opportunity, I wrote a check to ALPA for the full amount.
Now why are you bringing this up now? I ran for elected office and all of this was brought out during a very nasty contentious campaign last fall. I won that election and yes I did I resign from our SPSC Committee several months prior to the election. I currently receive no flight pay loss (unless I attend an MEC meeting). I average 12 - 18 hours a day of work for our union 7 days a week running an LEC with over 2300 pilots, one of the largest within ALPA, while still flying a full line of time (except for MEC meetings). Whats your point?
Guess you don't like the fact that my team is unifying our pilot group to fight the enemy Continental management for an Industry Redefining Contract. We have established well above average ALPA LEC weekly communication with our Magenta Line. Which by the way is just phase one of our Communications plan. Phase two will start in a month or so. So what's your beef?