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Old 04-30-2006, 06:41 PM   #1  
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Post Two Years Too Long? Another view!

Received this last week:

Part 1

Dear Fellow FedEx Pilots: I have written the following article in the spirit of reverence as it was known to the ancient Greek culture—an ethical virtue that brings people together. While I am sensitive to the immediate emotions that might be generated by this article, I am not moved by them. I am interested only in the long term benefits that accrue to our profession from an airing of the ideas. I have no choice. According to published reports, union membership has fallen to just 7.8% of the private workforce—nearly extinct—and its major institutions appear to be in disarray. In my opinion, our profession is headed irreversibly towards a similar collapse. I believe that its traditions must be replaced with common sense strategies, and it cannot wait any longer. This article is written against the backdrop of the current FedEx ALPA slogan: “Two Years is Long Enough.”

Is Two Years Really Long Enough?
Bob Lavender 8 April 2006©

The sentiments expressed in the slogan “Two Years is Long Enough,” are a throwback to the “regulated era" of the airline industry which ended in 1978. During this period, the time frame for negotiations and agreement were fairly uniform across the industry. But, those standards have been replaced by economic and sociological factors that dictate what “long enough” really is.

Because our profession has failed to analyze and control these factors, “long enough” is merely an opinion, and, in my view, it is not shared by a vast majority of important factions. Among them: FedEx managers, our fellow FedEx employees, pilots at Delta, United, and Northwest, legislators, the courts, Enron employees, the American public, and citizens worldwide. At best, these parties do not care how long we go on; at worst, they think that two years is not nearly long enough for us to boil in our juices. It would be self-deception to think that a lack of external support has no impact on duration.

Mathematically, “long enough” is a function of the conditions required to accomplish a task in a given measure of time. For instance, Billy Joe might think that two years is too long to have not won the Texas lottery, but if he continues to buy only one ticket per month, the odds are that it will take him about 14 million months to win the big one. To shorten the time, he needs to buy many more tickets. Likewise, pilots need to alter their economics and their form of solidarity in order to influence the timeline. Until we act on these matters we will continue to be acted upon by the prevailing elements.

Besides having little influence over the timeline for negotiations, our failure to break with past economic traditions also guarantees that we cannot control the quality of the negotiated product. It is not a question of merely closing a deal within two years; anyone can do that. It is a matter of optimizing our position in order to maximize the results. This, we cannot currently do. We are now dominated by local and global forces who know how to compete for the available revenue—and, they are formidable competitors. We need a new strategic formula to deal with these modern conditions.

Strategic Solutions to the FedEx Pilot Dilemma

1. First and foremost, we must enter into a reverent principle-based covenant with each other if we are to eliminate barriers to true solidarity. Since passage or the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, pilots have almost never missed a chance to be their own worst enemy—starting with the A, B, and C pay scales of the 1980s, and continuing today with the Retirement/Age 60 dilemma. The divisions that we, ourselves, have caused encourage exploitation and ridicule by everyone, not just management. We have no one to blame but ourselves…and no one will fix it but us.

2. We must break our economic ties with the passenger carriers at once and exploit our own niche. We are in a different business than they and our interests are sometimes opposed. The idea that we can continue to align ourselves economically with the passenger pilots and not be caught in their economic vortex is preposterous.

3. We must creatively address three strategic issues immediately: Open Skies, Age Retirement/Age 60, and Health Care. I designate these issues as strategic because they symbolize our professional failure to harmonize our interests with each other, with the company for whom we work, and with “globalization.” A willingness to change on these issues will signal a willingness to modernize. Suggestion: Get as far away from the traditional ALPA position on Open Skies as possible. FedEx and its pilots have a considerable cooperative interest in extending the FedEx infrastructure as quickly as possible and “owning” new markets. If you want more leverage, increase your numbers through corporate growth.

4. We must invite outside opinion, criticism, and influence into our midst. I strongly propose that we consult with an Organizational Behavior (OB) expert to help us identify and reduce internal points of division. Enlightened corporations and other organizations routinely use such experts to align their internal forces and make them more competitive (see my article, “Learning to Compete Wisely….” at www.pilotunity.com). Our profession has outright rejected the tools that these experts supply. Suggestion: Appoint an outside board of directors to help bring in new ideas. We need to learn how to compete and it is obvious to me that we cannot do it alone.

5. Pilots must take a new approach to Public Relations; traditional pilot standards are an embarrassment. For instance, whereas, management “sells” its “offers” publicly via outside spokespersons such as “analysts” and other credible channels, pilots rely on the most incredible of sources—themselves. Union officials have failed utterly to devise a modern public relations strategy for use either internally or for the outside world, and it is devastating. Vilification of management is grossly counterproductive. It results in “burnout” at all levels and it alienates fellow employees, especially at a company like FedEx whose credibility and reputation is legendary. The pilots need a solid forward-looking economic strategy along with a positive PR strategy to explain it. Right now we have neither. Suggestion: There must be a public declaration by pilot leaders that traditional methodology has failed and that a new strategic approach is now in progress.
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Old 04-30-2006, 06:42 PM   #2  
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Part 2

Tactical Comments

1. The “strike option”: It is no option at all at this time. The idea that there is, according to the FedEx MEC chairman, “limited excess capacity” in our industry may refer to hull capacity, but not to the availability of pilots. Never before have there been so many looking for work. During our strike at Continental, there were less than 1000 airline-qualified pilots on the street (mostly Braniff)—450 crossed our picket line! Today, there are at least 8,000 pilots on the street and thousands of others who would leave their jobs to work for FedEx. If you think these pilots cannot be quickly trained, you have not lived through a strike and experienced the dynamics of these situations. It’s time to start listening to those who have been there.

2. Business: Recently, FedEx ALPA indicated its desire to have a “business relationship” with the company. This is not a realistic expectation. In order to earn a business relationship one has to be a bonafide business employing rational economic and ethical business principles. The union has not done this, thus, it has no standing as a business and it will be neither respected nor engaged at that level.

3. Railway Labor Act: During every airline negotiation, unions and companies alternately argue that RLA either helps or hurts them, depending on the day of the week. Recently, an MEC member stated that the delays caused by the RLA were the source of our problems and we would be better off once we were released to self-help. This opinion completely avoids the true economic and sociological factors that affect us (i.e., thousands of pilots on the street, intra-profession warfare, etc.).

Like it or not, the RLA is currently our friend. Without a doubt, this is the worst time in airline history to be negotiating a contract. Anyone who wishes to face off with FedEx now must not have learned anything from extreme post-deregulation disputes. Traditional ideas about pilot solidarity are delusional. Experienced pilots know very well that what people say in the cockpit and what they are willing to do are two entirely different things, even under the best of circumstances.

4. Self-Help: I have found that few pilots are aware of the company’s options in self-help. Among other things, it is entitled to impose a contract, lock employees out, and bring employees back out of seniority order (seniority is not a “right,” it is a negotiated provision). If you desire to enter into this mode, you had better be certain that you have the fire power to overcome these tactics.

5. The “Last Offer”: I suggest that the pilots reconsider the last offer put on the table by the company. The day after the union officials announced rejection of this offer (before most of us knew there was an offer), FedEx pilot, Jim Sullivan (elected rep at CAL during our strike, long time ALPA volunteer and successful business owner), stated that we should have made a few improvements to the offer, thrown it back to the company, and taken the deal. Jim has expertise in these things because of his past experiences. Given the economic and sociological deficiencies that we face, I am in agreement. We could have taken the two year option, put some money in the pilots’ pockets, and bought ourselves two years to implement the necessary tools. Instead, the pilots have now earned at least one year of NOTHING while increasing the risk that it could get worse. My advice: Take the offer and start rebuilding.

If it is your opinion that two years is too long, you might consider the situation at UPS. UPS is one of the world’s most successful companies with revenues substantially greater than those of FedEx, and it has a highly unionized work force. Yet, after 42 months of negotiations, and mediation since August 2004, they are still at it! Why? Because they rely on the same traditional economic and sociological models as we do. Does two years still sound like it is “long enough”?

The Wrap Up

Do pairings need to be improved? Does Retirement need to be more secure? Yes to both questions. There are a lot of things that need improvement, and FedEx is capable. But, there are two major obstacles that suppress our ability to maximize the deal at FedEx. First, the economic obstacle: This includes an economic collapse of the passenger carriers, a process of rapid globalization, and, spiraling health care costs. These factors must be dealt with but our representative bodies have too much baggage to do it. Whereas, an enlightened profession would produce true leaders dedicated to solving modern dilemmas, ours has favored tradition and surveys over leadership. It has done almost nothing other than picket airport terminals and complain to Congress.

Second, the sociological obstacle: Starting shortly after the airline companies were deregulated, our profession institutionalized an every-man-for-himself behavioral model that exists to this day. Most pilots seem to know this but almost no one is trying to do anything about it. Pilots have been so busy competing with each other for short term gain that they have not learned how to truly unify in order to both complement and compete with other corporate stakeholders. There has been NO strategic leadership on this matter.

Remember: It is not a question of merely closing a deal within two years…It is a matter of optimizing one’s position in order to maximize results. This is where we are getting destroyed, and I, personally, will not accept it. From a marketing perspective, FedEx pilots have done nothing to distinguish their “product.” Hence, our income, benefits, and working conditions will move towards equilibrium with those of others in the marketplace, including the similarly-skilled, lower-paid commuter pilots—it is happening as we speak with pilots at DAL, NWA, UAL, and USAir! Right now, the only thing that distinguishes FedEx pilots from everyone else is the fact that FedEx is making money, a condition that is both created and controlled by the talents of FedEx management. Unless we employ new strategies such as those provided above, our quality of life will rise or sink with the rest of the pack. This is a risk we need not take.

Experienced pilots will recognize current union techniques as a replay of everything that has been tried over the last 28 years with diminishing success. Hence, we will ultimately settle for less regardless of whether it takes two days, two years, or twenty years. At some point, the MEC is destined to report that they got us the “best deal possible under the circumstances.” They will be wrong. There are a lot of exciting techniques available that could provide better and more secure results. FedEx pilots should be leading the way.

For each FedEx pilot, the important question is not if two years is long enough. It is: How long am I going to put up with traditional failing unionism before I help create something new?

Bob lavender has been a Federal Express pilot for 16 years and owns and operates a nationwide real estate/mortgage business. He was a Continental pilot from 1978 to 1983. He was on strike there for two years and would do it again if it were prudent. He left ALPA last year partly because of the union’s refusal to consider new ideas and publish articles such as this one. He can be reached at [email protected].
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Old 04-30-2006, 07:03 PM   #3  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoxHunter
He left ALPA last year partly because of the union’s refusal to consider new ideas and publish articles such as this one.
NON-MEMBER.

Last edited by ClutchCargo; 04-30-2006 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 04-30-2006, 07:47 PM   #4  
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FoxHunter is either:

A) A FedEx management mole masquerading as a former Seaboard/Tiger pilot
or........
B) A F** idiot who drank too much Eskimo hooch instead of the good stuff at F Street.
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Old 04-30-2006, 07:47 PM   #5  
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Isn't he the guy that went behind our backs and tried to advocate his own position by mis-representing himself as speaking for all of us?
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Old 04-30-2006, 08:24 PM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dckozak
FoxHunter is either:

A) A FedEx management mole masquerading as a former Seaboard/Tiger pilot
or........
B) A F** idiot who drank too much Eskimo hooch instead of the good stuff at F Street.
Don, your rhetoric does not cut it. Nor do the personal attacks work. You sold ALPA to the FedEx crewforce with certain expectations that have not, nor will not come to pass. I think Bob has a great deal more experience in the area of ALPA and strikes than you do.

Last edited by FoxHunter; 05-01-2006 at 01:31 AM.
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Old 04-30-2006, 08:44 PM   #7  
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It sounds like some new and inovative thinking. Let's through away everything we've been working on. Let's call it "interest based barganing". Or maybe "Cost Neutral". Oh, now I rememeber. We tried that and it got shoved down our throat. I don't have the time or inclination to engage each of Bob's Bull**** Bullets. We tried it his way. Now let's get on with it, without him.
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Old 04-30-2006, 09:12 PM   #8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FDXFLYR
Isn't he the guy that went behind our backs and tried to advocate his own position by mis-representing himself as speaking for all of us?
I believe Bob and another pilot had a meeting with management in regard to the age 60 issue last year. I believe our ALPA leadership had a fit. That issue is still huge. If you look into it you will find that almost all recent additions to the non-member list is due to this issue alone. According to a graph presented at the ALPA 2005 Executive Board Meeting 80% of members age 56-60 polled were in favor of raising that retirement age, and 61% of those 51-55 were in favor of the change. This of course was before Delta and NWA realized that they will probaly lose their pensions. What percentage of our pilots fall in that age range? I've been on strike twice as an ALPA pilot and both the strikes were short and successful. In both cases the leadership provided ample reasons for the senior guys to support the cause. With the ALPA position on the age 60 issue plus nothing major of issue in the contract they have managed to insure failure.

Last edited by FoxHunter; 05-01-2006 at 01:30 AM.
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Old 05-01-2006, 12:49 AM   #9  
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"The worst time in history to be negotiating an airline contract". Anyone who argues that is a retard.

I am a member, and I will support a strike without question if called to, but I'll also bet a case of beer to all takers that a strike won't turn out the way we want it to.

A good, if imperfect job, or a lifetime supply of beer.

Tough call.

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Old 05-01-2006, 04:35 AM   #10  
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They don't spend two years or longer negotiating a fuel surcharge do they?
The fact is that we have accepted a pay cut brought about by time and inflation, we are only negotiating for the restoration of pay with a cost of living/inflation adjusment.
The idea that it takes 2-4 years to hammer out a contract with a few changes is so far fetched and BS that no employee buys it. In the universe of unlimited bargaining time, we lose. And we lose every day we don't get a raise to keep up with inflation.
Retro is another name for an interest free loan at our expense, the company treats us like a liability, not the tremendous asset to earning that we are.

Last edited by jungle; 05-01-2006 at 08:22 AM.
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