OPEN LETTER TO THE PILOTS OF AMERICAN AIRLINES

OPEN LETTER TO THE PILOTS OF AMERICAN AIRLINES

For a PDF of this letter, click HERE.

This goes to show that no matter how much you care, or how much you sacrifice, you cannot stop your executives from filing for bankruptcy, and there is no depth executives will not stoop to in order to get what they want from you. Some things are out of your hands, and pilots do not like to be told they cannot control things. Perhaps it is time for pilots to concern themselves with the their own welfare that of their fellow pilots and get this profession back on its feet.

You are asked to believe that this represents the final chapter in that long mess you found yourself in 2002, just as in 2003, you were told that it was the last chapter. A little “pulling together” would result in a “win together.”

They will hold Chapter 7 over you as they held Chapter 11 over you back in 2003. Play ball or they liquidate. That is what you will be told. You will play along because, as pilots, you cannot allow yourself to be the cause of failure. It goes against your DNA. They know this; it is why you were hired in the first place. Just one more sacrifice, and you will be shot out of a cannon to a career that will make it all worthwhile.

If you believe that, you deserve what you get.

There remains some doubt as to what negotiations surrounding AMR’s 1113 “term sheet” will yield, but it is a pretty safe bet that what management could not gain prior to November will be taken via the bankruptcy proceedings. It is what their peers have done since Lorenzo.

They could not get scope from you via the bargaining table, so they are now trying to get it via bankruptcy court. They do this because the laws allow them to do so. The law is this way because pilots refuse to stand up for themselves. Once you give up your scope, you are no longer needed. Giving up flying to get flying has not worked in 30 years, and it will not work now.

The pilots need to unify to get the law changed, to prevent airline executives from recruiting the various bankruptcy courts as labor negotiators.

You have a peculiar negotiating history. Of the past ten years, you have been negotiating for seven of them. The only two times AMR threatened Chapter 11 were the last two times pilot contract negotiations got to the critical stage. The time prior to that resulted in a PEB.

That means the last time you negotiated a contract with AMR, without some form of government coercion, was 1991. Where are your wages, as of now?

1991.

What annual level is the block hour count?

1991.

This “peace in our time” stance against management will get you the same thing it got Chamberlain. Remember, you had “peace in your time” back in 2003, and you paid about a billion dollars per year for that “peace.”

What do you have to show for it? A Section 1113 “term sheet.”

Wherever you are in the Kubler-Ross grieving process, you will eventually get to the “anger” phase. We hope the 1113 sheet ends the “denial” phase for most of you. The goal is to channel that anger into something positive for you.

That’s where we come in. We represent OPERATION ORANGE, which is a peaceful, political protest of the existing regulatory paradigm covering pilot labor in the commercial airline industry. We know that this process of betrayal, fraud, and bad-faith labor relations is going to continue until the laws enabling such behavior are changed.

Change the law – save your profession. Nothing else will.

Negotiations are not going to work until they take place in an environment where management does not have complete control. We need to get the laws changed, or we will continue down this road until the system catastrophically fails. Captain Sullenberger testified to this when he was in front of Congress in 2009.

Members, I attempt to speak accurately and plainly, so please do not think I exaggerate when I say that I do not know a single professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps.

I am worried that the airline piloting profession will not be able to continue to attract the best and the brightest. The current experience and skills of our country’s professional airline pilots come from investments made years ago when we were able to attract the ambitious, talented people who now frequently seek lucrative professional careers. That past investment was an indispensable element in our commercial aviation infrastructure, vital to safe air travel and our country’s economy and security. If we do not sufficiently value the airline piloting profession and future pilots are less experienced and less skilled, it logically follows that we will see negative consequences to the flying public – and to our country.

We don’t have the money to buy Congressional sympathy. It is very expensive and we can never match what the ATA can throw at Congressional campaigns. No, our solution is simpler and more effective:

Our purpose is to pass legislation dictating various minimums in pilot pay, scheduling, fatigue, labor protections, RLA amendments, and airline bankruptcy reform. We have our draft of the legislation on our website. Please take the time to read it. If passed, it would represent a tremendous lift of the entire piloting profession, and allow management to reorganize as much as they want, but the pilot contract would be largely left alone. It would also remove the ability for management to abuse the RLA during contract negotiations. There is only one viable means for pilots to get this kind of change in the priorities of the lawmakers, regulators, and airline managers:

SHUT DOWN THE AIR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

Yes, we will piss-off everyone, but everyone who will be angry with us has feasted off our wallets and quality of life for three decades, without remorse.

Pilots want to be loved and admired, but this is not the venue for those needs. If it is love and admiration you seek, adopt a dog. Your fellow pilots and your family need you – not some faceless public or shallow-thinking talking head on the TV or radio.

The defeated among us will tell you that it is illegal. It most certainly is not. The FIRST AMENDMENT allows for us to peacefully assemble, without permit, for the purposes of petitioning the government for redress of grievances. A judge can’t enjoin that and Congress can‘t pass a law contrary to it. That same FIRST AMENDMENT also prohibits government from interfering with the dissemination of information. The THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT makes it so your absence from work isn’t construed as a crime.

What happens when you peacefully assemble outside of the aircraft for the purposes of petitioning Congress to change the laws? The airplanes stop and federal judges are powerless to stop the protest.

Previous injunctions, such as the one against the US Airways pilots (East), are because some pilots were engaging in work actions, in a fairly clumsy effort to exert pressure during contract negotiations. They never intended to change the law – only their contract. Your 1998 action was enjoined for the same reason – it was a contractual issue, not a political issue. Under such conditions, the RLA governs and judges will reliably enjoin activity to the contrary.

They are prohibited from enjoining the FIRST AMENDMENT.

We will schedule the SOS when we believe we have enough pilots to make it work, and the easiest way to show your support is to put orange duct tape on your airport luggage, and by telling 20 pilots to do likewise. We believe this move is the ATA accelerating their timeline for pilot concessions. We believe that the pilots at other large, network carriers will be told they must match American’s contract, lest they become less competitive.

American Airlines pilots are, for better or worse, in the leadership role in the future of the career. Whatever you do will determine where other pilot unions will eventually follow. SkyTeam and Star are no match for a large airline flying up to the FARs on C-scale wages, and many among those pilot associations know this to be the case.

American Airlines pilots can lead us into permanent concessions, or you can lead us into a new era of strong pilot labor, backed by law. Either way, you will lead us – that die is already cast. We just need to see what direction you will lead.

For those who may lose their jobs via outsourcing, AMR is worth more in Chapter 7 than in Chapter 11. They have absolutely nothing to lose – not one thing.

If you want to see where you stand before the courts, go to PBS FRONTLINE, and search for “Can You Afford To Retire?” View the chapter on the UAL bankruptcy. See what is called, “Judges First Day Orders.”

Their job is to loot the company and the employees, while at the same time keeping the employees motivated just enough to not strike. If you strike, they get nothing, and they know this. They want you to stay at work and build the scaffolding from which they will eventually hang you.

Every wheel you turn is another plank in that scaffolding.

By working “within the system,” you ensure that the system will survive to ensnare you again, and again, and again. If you wish to play by the rules, you throw yourself and your family on the mercy of a court that has been conditioned to see you as the problem.

No matter what Section 1113 does, you are never required by law to show for work. Section 1113 does not trump the FIRST AMENDMENT, just as the RLA does not. Whether or not you have the ability to strike at the rejection of your contract, or the unilateral imposition of one, is still a legal question that has not been definitively resolved. Our proposed legislative draft answers that question definitively.

Read the information available on OPERATIONORANGE.org. Pass the information to your fellow pilots. Get your friends at UAL/CAL, DAL, SWA, UPS, FedEx, and US Airways “on board.”

The only way they can get you to concede is if they can deceive you into agreeing to your own demise. You have other options which, to the shame of ALPA and APA, have never been explored. The answer is right there in your high school civics class – THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

Nobody is promising anything easy, but if 5000-7000 of us refuse to move the aircraft, the remaining pilots will also be unable to move the aircraft. The system will be paralyzed and drastic measures will need to be taken to get it running again. Your sick leave can outlast the patience of their bond holders. A few of us can do a tremendous amount. If we are so important to the national economy, then perhaps it is time for compensation to reflect that priority.

Will you fight for what you have worked for during the past few decades, or will you opt for “peace in our time” and take whatever table scraps are left for you? Your choice is the choice of all of us, for better or worse.

Decision time is right around the corner. Let’s end this destructive cycle and put the profession back on its feet.

For more information, please visit OPERATIONORANGE.org

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