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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I would like to wish you all a very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dreadful reminder

The previous blog post dealt with the news release about the "underwear bomber". This is truly a dreadful reminder that these types of actions will not abate. What I take away from this recent event is that we live in a world where a determined individual, or group, will most likely succeed in their goal to down an airliner. This is borne out by the fact that a young man was willing to strap a bomb to his testicles, and then attempt to destroy an aircraft by lighting the fuse. How can any agency, or government, succeed 100% of the time when people are insane enough to take an action such as this? Another thing that is obvious is that, in part because of this extremism, we work in a fragile and unpredictable industry. **EDIT, Here is an article from the New York Times discussing potential problems with the industry because of the new security regs. **

I say this not to invoke fear, but simply to state fact. In light of this, we need to plan for the possibility of another terrorist attack occurring, and the impact any successful attack will have on our industry. As a result of this unsuccessful attempt, there are already reports about long security lines across the country, and that will naturally cause people to want to fly less. This compounds the above mentioned fragility. All of the above is in spite of the fact that flying, even with the terrorism variable, is a much safer form of transportation than driving a car. Here is an interesting article on the odds of being injured because of a terrorist attack on an airliner.

Fortunately, well before this latest incident, the IBT started, and continues work on a couple of different initiatives that should minimize the impact on the membership in case of a successful attack; provided operations continue. The first effort is to amend the RLA to treat us in the same manner as rail workers when airlines file for bankruptcy protection. Here is a link to that story. The next project is developing strong scope protection during negotiations. There was an earlier post on the blog explaining what scope does, and why we need to strengthen our language.

What can we do to help these efforts? The first thing would be to contact our Senators and Representatives. Tell them we need the protections afforded to rail workers during bankruptcy proceedings. If you are not a member of D.R.I.V.E., you may want to consider this, as this is our political action committee. D.R.I.V.E. works to educate and persuade members of Congress regarding legislative issues that affect our ability to make a productive living. If you need further information on this program feel free to contact me. You can also remain strong in solidarity, and express to the Company that strong scope language is required, and would be a deal breaker if not achieved.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Attempted act of terrorism

I'm sure you've all seen the reports regarding the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, but if not here is a link. Apparently a young Nigerian tried to detonate a device, which he received in Yemen, on descent into Detroit. Thank God he was unsuccessful!

Expect huge delays through screening if you have to travel, as President Obama has ordered increased security measures for air travel. Here is a link to an article regarding the increased measures.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I hope you are blessed with some time together with family and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I was watching CNBC this morning, and viewed a report from Steve Liesman that shocked me at first. Then I realized that, having lived and worked through this decade, this report should come as no surprise. Mr. Liesman's report was in regards to the job stagnation and loss over the last ten years. Here is a link to the video report.

This is not breaking news as several papers have reported on this phenomenon in the last few months. Here is one from Business Week, here is one from Market Watch, and finally here is one from Slate.

I'm sure politicians will attempt their own spin on all these reports of the "Lost Decade" for jobs production in the US. However, what can't be spun is the fact that while our population grew, the number of us working fell over an extended period of time. To be sure policy changes had a large impact on this very disturbing fact. Regulations affect every aspect of our lives, including the ability to provide for our families and ourselves. The lesson I've learned from all of this is that a "hands off, the economy will take care of it itself" approach, is both foolhardy monetary policy as well as potentially dangerous national security policy. We only need to look at the unemployment numbers, the last ten years performance of the stock market, and finally the price of commodities, to see how I've arrived at this assessment.

So what can we do about this? We could do nothing and hope things improve. I think the answer however, is to get involved politically. We need to share our opinions with our elected representatives and let them know that these past types of poorly thought out deregulatory policies will not stand.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

American Crash

In case you haven't seen them, here is a link to some very clear pictures of the American Airlines crash in Jamaica.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

What is Scope?

I may have posted a similar article a few months back, but in light of the recent decision to issue RFPs for the San Francisco and Dulles GQ shops, I feel this bears repeating. Scope language is the most important part of the contract, but it is typically given the least amount of attention by the membership. I think this is in part because scope language doesn't elicit excitement in the same manner -- nor is it as easy to understand -- as Schedule A wages. With the Schedule A wages you can clearly see what you are promised. With scope, you sometimes have to be a lawyer to understand what all that language means. To put it simply, scope defines our work and sets the rules and limits to protect against the loss of our work to non-bargaining unit personnel and third-party vendors. A major part of the problem with the scope language in our contract has to do with the fact that one of our past representational organizations placed a lower priority on this language than it required.

I like to use analogy to help me explain what I am trying to portray. For me an analogy that I can equate to our past scope negotiations would be the erection of a house. We the membership have witnessed much of this building being assembled, but a good portion was already in place before we came on the scene. This house was erected on a foundation of hard clay. In addition, the walls were put together poorly, but there was nice looking siding on it. Times were good and this house continued to stand. Then, bad weather started to erode the foundation and even tear apart the nice looking siding. With no money for repairs of things that should have been assembled correctly, we sold 20% of our belongings. This money was used to pay for repairs and shore up the foundation. That action didn't help in the long run and more of our belongings were sold to try to pay for temporary repairs that would get us through to better times. Unfortunately, all this did was to erode our foundation further without adding the needed protections that would keep the house standing. Now we are left with a house on a non-existent foundation, with a deteriorated veneer, and no more belongings to sell to make it look better. It is time to look again to our foundation and perform the necessary repairs that are required to allow our house to stand well into the future.

Without strong scope language we end up with, well, what we have. The Company replaces us with vendors at an alarming rate, and so we see the result of weak scope language. This is not to bash the previous Unions on the property. There were different reasons that we ended up with this scope language. The most recent and devastating reason was the 1113 bankruptcy filing. What we all learned in that proceeding was that everything including scope language has a cost. Under the IAM I was made aware early in my career of the necessity of strong scope language by a very senior General Chairman. He explained to me that he felt that while scope was critical to our survival, no one would ever go on strike over it. In his opinion the only issues this membership would fight for were wages and pension. Rather than educate the membership on the benefits of scope, the Union chose to stay the course and rest on a faulty foundation. There was a decent relationship with the Company over the years with the IAM and so their position regarding scope had some limited merit at the time, which was reflected by short-term gains. As we've seen, our numbers have decreased from 16,700 to a little less than 5000 today. That is the obvious outcome of an agreement that put secondary issues first over a period of decades. To sum this up, weak scope language is easily attainable and will lead to the continued erosion of the jobs and benefits of our fellow mechanics and friends. Unfortunately, the flip side is also true: the attainment of strong scope language does not come cheap or easy.

I know this may not be a popular position, but we need to understand what we are facing. My guess is if we ignore scope completely we could enjoy huge advances in the Schedule A. The only problem with this is that, many more of us will find ourselves unemployed. For me, I voted for change, and I voted for professional representation. I got involved again to ensure that we not only make a decent wage, but that we also have strong job protections in place so that we all know, barring any exigent circumstances, we will be employed until we decide to retire. There are people at the table now, including legal counsel, looking to win these improvements. With your support, securing strong scope protection language is an achievable and worthwhile goal.

That's all for now,


Saturday, December 12, 2009

SEC Investigation

Thanks to Carlos Barrantes a mechanic in the Jet Shop who forwarded this information to me at the beginning of the month. The blog is titled the Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association and the article dated December 3rd is very interesting. The article talks about the fact that the FBI and the DOJ have so far refused to look into allegations of judicial fraud in the UAL bankruptcy. However the SEC's Inspector General has decided to investigate the matter. Here is a link to the article regarding the SEC IG's investigation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SFO visit

Harvey Wright took me on a short tour of the Jet Shop on Monday prior to negotiations. I appreciated the opportunity to talk with several of you that read the blog. I would like to thank you all for your feedback and comments.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I took the feed down as it appears to be broken. According to the posts that were shown at the time it is a problem with blogger. If there is a resolution I'll put it back up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekly report 12-5-09

There is little to report this week as I was in San Francisco for the JBA followed by negotiations. The overall tone for this week was positive with some progress made. To see the latest negotiations updates click the link at the top of the page.

The Joint Board went well in my opinion. Only one member, Clacy Griswold, had any experience with the process. Given that this process was new it went surprisingly well. Each grievance was given a full review and decided on their respective merits. Each side's members truly acted as neutrals, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised about that fact. Without getting into specifics it was encouraging to see the Company members of the Board pointing out areas of concern with presentations from Labor Relations. It is my hope that this spirit of cooperation will continue to the betterment of the membership.

However, there is one huge negative issue which cast a pall over the entire proceedings this week. That is the autoshop outsourcing issue which continues in San Francisco and Dulles Airports. Some of you may know there is a systemwide committee led by Greg Sullivan from San Francisco to deal with this. There is also a committee of local people in IAD that are working diligently towards a resolution to keep the work inhouse. Two members of this local committee met last week with Senator Byrd's office, Congressman Wolfe's office and Dr. Gordon Lafer, Senior Labor Policy Advisor on the Labor and Education Committee, from Congressman George Miller's office. The two members visiting the Hill were Eric Harger and Jay Obst.

That's all for now,