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Old 04-16-2009, 07:56 AM   #1  
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Default Real men of genius

Which brings us to the continuing dysfunctional pilot group situation at US Airways.

As most of you are aware, the mess with the pilots at US Airways began after the majority of the pilot group that came from US Airways refused to go along with the seniority decision that an ALPA arbitrator issued. The pilots who had worked for America West had no problem with the decision.

As I have written here in the past, it was at this point that the national ALPA leadership failed. Instead of telling the pilots who had come from US Airways that the process dictated in the ALPA rules and regulations had been followed, and that was the end of it, ALPA national allowed the leadership at the pilot group at US Airways a "foot in the door" so to speak concerning the way in which the list was determined. And that led to the end of... ALPA.

The pilot group from the old US Airways, which we now refer to as the US Airways East group decided that ALPA had to go. Apparently, someone came to the conclusion that this would be a good way to "avoid" the arbitration decision.

Not particularly bright thinking.

So this group, which outnumbers the old America West or US Airways West pilot group, by a significant margin, voted in a new "independent" union last spring, the U.S. Airline Pilots Association. USAPA for short.

Now what?

Well, all this sound and fury created pretty much nothing. At least nothing positive.

The US Airways West pilots essentially decided to band together and not pay dues to the new independent union, and the USAPA union continued to push for a new seniority list, while as far as the US Airways West pilots are concerned, there is a seniority list.

A lot of rhetoric. A lot of legal bills. A lot of name calling. But no progress on what is really important -- a new contract.

Remember that the company is officially pretty hamstrung on all this. It can't show favoritism to either group. But on the other hand -- it continues to save money because the US Airways East pilot group is still being paid the same lower wages they were being paid when the takeover of US Airways by America West took place. Why? Because there is no new contract. Why? Because the US Airways East pilots refused to accept anything less than a straight date-of-hire seniority agreement.

However, having said that the company is "officially" hamstrung, there are those on the US Airways West side who wonder whether things might not have gotten to this point if Doug Parker, US Airways CEO, had taken a stronger stance with both groups earlier on. You know, had one of those Herb-type "Come to Jesus" meetings with union leaders from both camps.

I can understand the argument, but with this situation, I doubt it would have made a difference.

To make all of this even more ludicrous, consider the new ALPA seniority agreement between the pilots at Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines. Essentially, it is based on the exact same guidelines that were used in the original US Airways arbitration decision. It is also what is termed a "ratio" list -- not one based solely on date of hire.

Taking a quote from a Leonidas update, "Not much else can be said other than that there was arbitration, that the arbitration was carried out in the exact same manner as every other arbitration in the past, and that both parties participated in the arbitration process fully, and without objection. Furthermore, it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that an arbitrator who had twice before combined pilot lists using a ratio formula would likely do it again in this case -- especially in light of the disparate condition of the airlines being merged."

As I told Delta Air Lines ALPA MEC Chairman Lee Moak in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, "Your job was made a lot easier because of what happened with US Airways."

And it was. ALPA was not going to let the same disaster happen again.

Now you have been brought up to date. Almost.

I mentioned the name Leonidas. That is the name of the LLC, comprised of US Airways West pilots, that was formed for the purpose of litigtion against USAPA. You can access their website here. On the website you will see a list of Leonidas objectives that were posted on March 15. Those pretty much sum it all up.

What is the point of this lawsuit? The US Airways West pilot group is seeking a single collective bargaining agreement that implements the original Nicolau ALPA seniority list. That is the main objective.

There is also the messy issue of US Airways furloughing US Airways West pilots and not US Airways East pilots. This is a side effect of the airline still having to operate the airline with two separate pilot groups. Because there have been more capacity cuts in the West, this has meant that more US Airways West pilots are in line to be furloughed.

I won't get into the finer points of this -- just suffice to say that if the original seniority list was accepted, this would all take care of itself.

As I said, this case has continued to move forward through the court system, and as of now, it looks like the case will go to court the last week of April. April 28 to be exact. The pre-trial conference is now set for the 17th. It will be a jury trial.

I said here last week that even if the US Airways West pilots win I was not sure how that would change things that much in the short term -- because I would anticipate an appeal on the part of the USAPA group.

But this week, I was told by one source that's close to the case that if USAPA loses the case --while they could appeal -- it would have to be on a matter of procedure. Because it is a Federal civil jury trial, an appeal based on the merits of the case would not be allowed.

While that may be true, there is still the issue of just what will happen if the court rules in favor of the US Airways West pilot group. And yes, I think that is what is going to happen. Then what? I really doubt that the folks over at the US Airways East camp are going to come over, smoke a peace pipe, and everybody will then sing around the campfire in perfect harmony.

Meanwhile, there is apparently political disharmony in the USAPA camp, from what we understand. It appears that USAPA's own appeal board just ruled that the recent election for union officers was illegal because a US Airways West pilot was precluded from running.

Got that? Another brilliant stroke of genius.

I know. It would make a great book. All of it.

Now it is apparently up to the USAPA board to determine what they will do. If they do not re-run the election, a source told us this week that the Department of Labor will be getting involved. Either way, it would appear that a new election of USAPA officers will not take place until after the trial is over.

A change in control at the top of USAPA could mean a change to a leadership that perhaps has its priorities more attuned with getting a new contract. And not arguing over a decision that should have been accepted when it was made.

I told you it was a mess.

I applaud the US Airways West pilot group for fighting this. They have been very up front about the fact that they are accepting no help from ALPA, the airline or anyone else -- except US Airways West pilots and friends of the effort.

I think that perhaps some of their other pilot friends might want to take a look at what they are doing -- in terms of trying to maintain the integrity of union merger rules and procedures. These guys should not have to be fighting this battle on their own.
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