There is nothing that will start a fist fight in the cockpit faster than having one pilot who declares that ALPA sucks while the other being a fan of the union. This has been the banter of pilots since the union began its quest for representing labor in the airline industry. So what is the golden answer? Ask ten different pilots and you may get ten different answers.
Some airline pilot groups are figuring out that they are really not happy with the labor union. Some are even trying to expel the union from their representation and go with an in house union. “I think the concept is ok, its just poorly executed by ALPA” says several upset pilots from a major airline. “We need some sort of interface with airlines management, something that does not allow them to run away with our contracts” But the facts can also be stated that airline management groups eventually end up doing pretty much what they want anyway. The union is more or less an obstacle that gets in the way of growth goals. A lot of management groups have failed to realize that the pilot group can be their greatest advocate. Pilots can have a lot of input on how much fuel you burn on any given flight segment. When you consider that fuel is the biggest expense in the airline industry, it would make sense to have the pilots on your side.
Old school verses new school
It can also be said that the union concept as a whole is an industrial age concept. That was fine when we were in the industrial age, but we have firmly arrived in a global economy. In the competitive landscape such as the airline business, you have to be able to use global resources just to stay alive in the business. So the big question becomes, can ALPA become a globally minded resource? The question would mostly likely lean towards the negative since the major tenant of unionization is built around protecting labor groups. Outsourcing labor groups, using global contracts and trimming expenses by thinking outside the industrial age box is what the global economy is all about. So how do you mix these two hugely different mindsets? I would tend to think that will you not get a massive change of heart in either direction. People groups tend to have entitlement issues that do not mix well with business survival.
So who will evolve?
This basically is were the rubber meets the road. As pilots argue, the fact of evolution does not really come up. Staunch supporters of labor groups defend their needs for representation and pilots who have been abused by the system state their disdain. This could be reworded as “hope” verses scorn. Where as union supporters really love the idea of having someone looking out for them, they hope and pray they are effective in doing so. (hopeful thinking) The scorned are simply the scorned individuals that poor management groups have simply “used” for leverage in some sort of crisis or money issue. Both techniques or characteristics are a poor way of running a business.
If you go to any aviation forum or airline pilot forum you will easily find heated arguments on these very topics. No doubt most aviators have been involved in them in one way or the other. The problem is these very issues are building up a foundation of uncertainty in pilots minds. This can cause havoc in the long run and perhaps (not always) have an impact later on in a pilots career. There is always some sort of trigger in a crisis that controls behavior. Although this is not an epidemic, it does happen from time to time. By no means are we saying that it is the responsibility of companies or unions to protect pilots mental health, they just need to be aware that there are human factors that can be effected from poor decision making. Sooner or later, something is going to have to evolve into some sort of win/win situation for aviation.
This video has some interesting points for both sides. They could have entertained the idea of having an narrator who could be interesting to listen too.
Here is an article that most pilots cannot stand. It brings up some interesting points from people who have no idea what its like to work for an airline. The main flux of the story is about the merger of American and USAirways.
An interesting forum discussion on unions.
And lastly, a petition to end the Railway labor act.