Full disclosure, I’ve never been a huge fan of unions. At one of my first jobs (selling cars) the mechanics went union and during talks did alot of damage to the cars and the dealership. That left a very bad taste and I’ve seen similar examples of bad behavior throughout my life. When I got to the Regionals things didn’t seem much better. While there were some great volunteers at our base, those on top were very condescending and the Chairman was caught embezzling close to $200k. When I got to my current airline I actually got into a very heated conversation with the MEC officers (the local leadership) Day 1.
That all said, while I was really happy with my job I recognized things could be better and I was always taught you really have no right to complain if you’re not willing to do something about it. My background was in training so I volunteered for the Training Committee. The Chairman was a great guy, taught me a ton and it was then I realized, like with many things in this world, it’s really about the people involved. I was doing some good work but I unfortunately ran afoul of the MEC Chair and I was removed from the committee. As some of you may have noticed I’m not always the warmest and fuzziest guy and it was for that reason (and I’d like to think because I generally make sense when I talk) I was approached by more than a few people to run for office (actually one pilot said “we need to unleash the Kraken”). I threw my name in the hat and for some reason the pilots were foolish enough to elect me. That was almost 3yrs ago. We serve a 3yr term and I’m now debating whether to run for a second term or not?
So was this a good experience? First off the most common question I’m asked is how much do you get paid? We don’t. We’re volunteers. Now we take a few unions days every month and if we need to drop a trip we get pay protected for it but it in no way comes close to the hours we put in. There have definitely been some highs. My favorite part is Pilot Representations. Every now and then a pilot finds themselves in trouble and we get to play defense atty. While I’ve still never had the opportunity to shout “I want the truth”, I have come close and when the situation is resolved there’s definitely a sense you’ve done some good. On the other hand dealing with the company can be frustrating. The contract is law and they will on occasion “interpret” the language differently when we do and that can be a fight. The one thing I’ve learned is it is literally impossible to make everyone happy. This pandemic is a great example. Obviously I’m not going to get into the debate here but there are pilots on both sides who are very passionate about their feelings. The union has been thrust right in the middle of negotiating a path to try and satisfy all the pilots we represent. Regardless of the outcome there will most certainly be unhappy pilots.
So will I run again? Probably. I’m part of a great team and we’ve had more wins than losses. It’s also a great feeling to know you’ve participated in some positive change and have actually helped someone through a difficult situation. When you folks finally do realize your goals of flying for an airline I strongly encourage you to get involved. It’s a thankless job and it may in fact negatively impact your earnings. You’ll get hate mail and even threats. There are of course more important things. If choose not to that’s fine. The only thing I ask all our pilots is to at least let us know if there’s a problem. Your union literally can’t do anything without a complaint. I know you’re all a long way from that, just something to keep in mind. The biggest misconception is that we hate the company. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the volunteers I work with really love the airline. We love it so much we’re willing to sacrifice some of our time to make it better.