I recently received an e-mail from a fellow pilot who stated that he would rather see American Airlines liquidate than vote “yes” for our current tentative agreement. That’s a bold statement, and along with some very positive correspondence, we’ve also received our share of similar “chest thumping” via C&R, Soundoff, etc. While martyrdom in the manner of Eastern Airlines is one option, I do not believe that the majority of our pilots would prefer to embark upon a path of self-destruction in order to make a political point or poke management in the eye.
I want to make clear that this is not a fantasy game of Dungeons and Dragons or Call of Duty. We are not on a fictional crusade to slay a mythical dragon or gun down the opposition. This is not a remake of “Braveheart.” This is our future, and it is imperative that you understand that we currently hold that future in our hands.
While there has always been a strong tradition of political opposition within our union, it has moved well beyond what could be defined as healthy, and in fact, it has become poisonous. There are those among us who are driven by a personal and political agenda that has little to do with successfully emerging from bankruptcy with our profession and our jobs still intact. Instead, a relatively small group of former APA officers and committee members who were fired, not re-elected or just plain quit have decided that their political agenda is more important than the needs of the line pilot. They have embarked on a campaign of F.U.D. laced with disinformation designed to appeal to our greatest fears and our most base elements. It is a strategy designed to evoke anger and suspicion. What they have failed to offer is anything that resembles a well thought-out acceptable alternative or solution. To a man, they adhere to what I would refer to as the “Doctor Strangelove theory of mutual assured destruction”: Just strap on the nuke, ride it down to the target and simply wait for the mushroom cloud.
While bankruptcy is undoubtedly an experience that creates a great deal of emotional anxiety, we must not let it color our good judgment. The decision before us must be made using the same calm, cool and collected approach that we use in the course of our decision-making process in flight.
As I currently see it, we have two choices before us:
Option 1: We can take off with a re-release flight plan (our current improved TA), with a very good chance of reaching our destination (industry standard). There may be a near-term divert or a fuel stop (a US Airways merger), but I am confident that we will arrive safely with our jet and our passengers intact, while upholding the value of our profession.
Option 2: We can kick the tires, light the fire, brief on guard, skip the flight planning and we’ll worry about the destination if we’re lucky enough to reach cruise altitude. It’s off to the great unknown on a wing and prayer…
My guess is that given those two choices, there are very few pilots who would knowingly take the second option, especially when the first choice sets a clear and defined path to what we seek. The fact of the matter is that this is the nature of bankruptcy ― tough choices. In that regard, I’m reminded of an old saying that my friends in the fighter community often used, and it may very well apply to our current situation: “Don’t press a bad position.” And if there’s one thing we can all agree upon, it’s that bankruptcy is a very bad position to find oneself.
What is important for you to understand is that the union leadership that was in place before my appointment has been continuously engaged in defending your contract and your profession well prior to AMR’s bankruptcy filing. To this point, we have outperformed every other pilot group that has been faced with the same situation. By recognizing the threat of bankruptcy months before the event happened, we were able to identify and retain a group of expert advisers who represent the best in their respective fields. Over the last year we have executed a comprehensive and integrated strategy that engaged AMR in every venue, whether it be filing multiple appeals or engaging in an unprecedented merger strategy with US Airways while still inside the bankruptcy process. This strategy and your solidarity have produced a conditional labor agreement with US Airways that we have effectively used to leverage AA management into a significantly improved TA. Dozens of dedicated volunteers, thousands of man-hours and millions of your dollars have been spent in this endeavor. Your unity and strength has enabled APA to make significant improvements to this tentative agreement.
The choices before you are simple: capture the gains that you have enabled APA to secure or remain engaged in a game of “Russian roulette” with two chambers in the revolver having already been turned. The latter means likely squandering all that has been negotiated thus far, with little likelihood of making additional gains. We must recognize that the high-risk strategy that some in our group continue to advocate has its limits, and at some point the “risk-reward” equation will no longer be in our favor. I believe we have reached the point that economists refer to as diminished marginal returns, at which pushing for more will get us less. The choice is yours to make: Either brief on guard, or take the re-release flight plan and move on to our destination.