Welcome AboardJoe Doniach, Editor
The Bayliner, October 1999
Dear New-Hire Pilot:
Welcome to the best airline in the world-United Airlines. And welcome to the world of democratic trade unionism. If you are like the majority of pilots hired recently, you are entering a very different world than what you are used to.
You are probably a white male, in your 30s, a former military officer. Most likely you have spent your entire adult life in the military, beginning, at age 18, with one of the service academies. Until this moment, your career has been depended on your abilities as an officer and your skills as a pilot, measured against those of your peers.
All that has changed. You have jumped over the last hurdle, and you are now a pilot for United Airlines. For the rest of your career, all that's required is that you meet United's minimum (albeit high) standards.
In the military, apart from flying your missions, most of your professional life was beyond your control- you were dependent on decisions made by your superiors in the military hierarchy. That is no longer the case. Now, as a member of ALPA, and as an employee-owner of United Airlines, you have the potential to have a great deal of influence and control over your professional life and career as an airline pilot. Unlike the top-down military hierarchy, ALPA is a bottom-up democratic trade union. In ALPA, the rank and file -you and I- wield the power, if we choose to do so. And there's the rub. If you choose not to participate in our fragile union democracy, someone else will wield the power for you.
From personal experience I know that, from the outside looking in, you probably thought that once you were hired by United Airlines you had it made, and all your troubles were over. Alas, that's not the case. The main reason that United Airlines is the best airline in the world is the vigilance and involvement of the members of UAL-ALPA. In my 14 years here, there have been far too many occasions when United Airlines could have been either ruined by bad management or broken up and sold off in pieces, but for the strength and solidarity of UAL-ALPA. The ash heap of history is littered with airline carcasses-just ask your captains, who probably flew for Braniff, Eastern, Pan Am, or some other long-defunct airline.
So, how can you become involved? Simple. Attend a council meeting. Yes, they can be boring. Yes, people sometimes run off at the mouth. Yes, they can be contentious. Nobody said democracy was easy! In the words of Winston Churchill, it's the worst form of government, except for all the rest.
United Airlines, for once, is in a happy (as opposed to vicious) pilot-hiring circle. Because its future is so bright, it's attracting the "best and brightest" new-hires. I am constantly amazed by the talents of our new pilots. We (United and ALPA) have a vast pool of tremendous resources to draw from. But you have to volunteer your services-nobody will do the job for you.
You don't have to wait until you're off probation to be involved in ALPA. Attend a council meeting. Volunteer for a committee. Call your council officers and ask, not what your union can do for you, but what you can do for your union. And, once again, welcome aboard!
Joe Doniach, Editor