Friday, November 25, 2011

DPA Issues Contract Opening Statement

DPA Issues Contract Opening Statement

From Mike Protack, Chairman, DPA Negotiations Committee:

Negotiations offer a challenge. What should the opening offer be? High or low? Close to a resistance point or more cooperative with the other party? The key is to know and understand what the other side(s) will do. In our case, we have two opponents, ALPA and the Company. We have to assume they will work in concert with each other to achieve a non-confrontational stand and claim to “work” for a good contract. History shows we will lose if ALPA is our negotiator.
C2K was an ALPA negotiated product.
DPA WILL be making a contract opener that is radically different from that of ALPA. Due to the independent nature of DPA, we are able to aggressively tackle scope without concern for lawsuits from other regional carriers that WILL be affected by our opener. DPA is NOT REQUIRED to meet and confer regarding our scope proposal with the regional carriers that serve Delta while ALPA is required to do so. The DPA President WILL sign our member ratified contract without hesitation, whereas the ALPA National President may choose to withhold his signature if he sees another lawsuit from the regional carriers is inevitable. He must protect the National Association from Duty of Fair Representation lawsuits and the economic damage that goes with that.
I guess they are planning on submitting their own opener?
DPA WILL have more “pie” to negotiate with. ALPA has often responded to contract requests from the line pilot with the following statement, “The pie is only so big, what are you willing to give up to achieve that?” DPA WILL NOT reduce the “pie” by requiring the Company to pay the earnings of all the Designated Reps as does ALPA. DPA will require our Reps to earn their keep by flying a half line minimum and will then pay the difference remaining OUT OF MEMBER DUES. Delta Pilots will be ensured that their Reps are working solely for the pilots and will enjoy the newly available extra “pie” as the Delta Pilots see fit.
If there is no "pie" how did the DPA get more of it?
We recognize that having DPA make the first offer in a contract negotiation is the preferred scenario. In having the opportunity to make the initial opener, we allow more flexibility during the process and we will also cause the Company to reevaluate their own resistance point on many issues. All DPA members should work to achieve a vote prior to the opener to give us our preferred path to an exceptional new Delta Pilot Working Agreement.

Aggressive does not mean take it or leave it, it means strategic in outlook and firm in our approach. DPA will seek to ensure that Delta continues to grow into a financially solid and profitable company. We will ensure Delta Pilots are properly rewarded for the real value we bring to the company. Recognizing that historically, ALPA does not sign contracts by the amendable dates, it is entirely possible that DPA can open our contact negotiations on time and achieve a new contract PRIOR TO the amendable date.

Isn't that what ALPA is accused of doing?

The items below are not the Contract Opener, they are the Contract Opening Statement. The opener will be determined by input from the entire Delta Pilot group, not just the 4,000 members as of this writing.

Contract Priorities

1. A contract which is understandable, enforceable and beneficial to both parties and should not exceed 200 pages. The average line pilot should be able to fully grasp all provisions of the contract and easily know their responsibilities while also easily determining if the Company is in violation of any area.

What happens if a clear, concise and unambiguous contract needs to be longer than 200 pages?

2. A defined path back to the Delta Contract 2000 upon signing plus current inflation to reflect the multi-billion dollar support the pilot group gave to the company for its survival.

3. Increased Pilot Change Schedule Options to maximize productivity, reduce reserve requirements, increase pilot schedule choices and the pilot quality of life. Pilots should enjoy a contract that rewards professionals who are dedicated to providing our passengers a safe and pleasant flying experience.

It's called the SOT

4. Increased scope protection to reduce regional destruction of our product and careers with system integration of pilots flying Delta routes. Aircraft displaying the Delta livery should only be flown by Delta Pilots.

OMG! Do these guys really not see that Section 1 is about way more than 76 seat planes!?

5. Focus on using premium pay above the Cap to increase productivity and pilot compensation while acknowledging the goal is to put a well qualified pilot in his/her seat, fly them to maximum utilization and return them quickly to rest status.

What if that's not the focus of the pilots?

6. Refine and increase vacation and training pay so as to realize these days carry the same status as days on the line and are not after-thoughts of a Pilot’s schedule.

7. Improve medical coverage for all Pilots, including retirees, which is the fastest growing part of a pilot’s financial obligations. Remove the hesitancy to retire due to extremely high medical premiums.
Is that really why pilots don't retire or is it why older DPA pilots haven't retired?

8. Improve furlough protection and sick pay/usage from the company. Guarantee that pilots will not be harassed for sick leave use.
Why do we need furlough protection if the DPA is recovering all the flying?

9. Establish flow up/seniority for all regional affiliates to establish a solid brand for Delta Airlines at all levels and stop the cannibalization of our flying by pitting one regional carrier against another.
We thought the regional carriers were the problem? Now you want them all to flow up into our jobs and have a national seniority list? Isn't that what the DPA dislikes about the National union?
Pilots are screened, selected and trained to occupy a position of great responsibility and authority. The flying public appreciates and recognizes our role, we expect our Company to do the same.
As long as the ticket price is right...

Mike "Junior" Protack

Monday, November 7, 2011

President's Message - The Lee Seham Issue

Fellow Pilots:

Rumors and tall tales abound on the topic of Lee Seham's relationship with USAPA. Much has been written but, as usual, please take note of the authors of these grandiose yarns and you may find some insight into the motives behind these stories. But here's what has actually happened. To start with, it is worth noting that the current Officers inherited the relationship with Mr. Seham - Seham was chosen precertification.

During the summer of 2010, we recognized that Lee Seham represented a single point of failure for our union. His firm is composed of himself as the sole attorney capable of litigating and a group of journeymen in support. If something, anything, happened to Seham then USAPA would be in trouble because there is no heir apparent inside his firm. And so we sought out to find another competent RLA firm, not to replace Seham, but one with which we could create and test a business relationship in order to eliminate the single point of failure. Competent, powerful labor firms are difficult to come by but after searching for months, we had narrowed that field to Brian O'Dwyer's firm when the Pension Investigation Committee (PIC) needed counsel to potentially investigate State Street Bank (SSB). The PIC attorney was conflicted with SSB, and O'Dwyer was the perfect fit with his extensive pension litigation experience and deep bench.

And so in the spring of 2011, the Board approved the creation of a business relationship with O'Dwyer and we started assigning work to this firm to test their work product. At that time, I personally called Seham and told him the reasons that O'Dwyer had been hired. I assured him that he was not being replaced. There is, after all and unfortunately, plenty of legal work at USAPA to go around.

Now I frankly would have been more than happy to leave well enough alone at this point and to not have to go into the following detail; there just isn't any value for us in telling every detail of the occasional unpleasant business relationship. But the truth of this issue has now been clouded by those who are experts in smearing anyone in their way - they are the dying emblems of old ALPA. So here we are; time for a little truth tellin'.

For a very long time we had been warned about problems with Seham by many others including the Teamsters (their opinions of Seham are not printable), SWAPA (the Southwest pilots' union, who terminated their relationship with Seham just this year for "incompetence and billing irregularities"), APA (the Allied Pilots Association, who fired Seham for a variety of issues including pro-management business relationships), to numerous respected individual labor and RLA attorneys who are aware of Seham's poor reputation among labor advocates. These concerns were relayed to us over time and we took each of them into consideration along the way by doing our best to investigate them and assigning some level of veracity to each of the claims. Each of these concerns with Seham were addressed openly and proactively with him in an attempt to correct problem areas and to stay on track. The efforts to resolve them internally were not successful.

One of the repeated concerns from others is that Seham has a record of becoming vindictive when his business relationships end. Through the latespring, despite my assurances to him to the contrary, Seham became convinced that he was being replaced. This was not ever the plan. The plan was only to eliminate the single point of failure for our organization. At this point, Mr. Seham started engaging in the political process inappropriately. There is never a time when counsel should be politically engaged within the union, but this in fact happened on two occasions where Seham participated in secret telephone calls with certain Board members, plotting for the overthrow of Officers who he believed stood in the path of his USAPA revenue stream. (These calls are acknowledged by those who participated.) This behavior is not only outrageous; it breaches his fiduciary obligation to USAPA as counsel.

The politics continued when Seham began informing line pilots that he wasn't consulted about USAPA's status quo filing in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) and that the filing would fail  and be harmful to our other litigations. This was most remarkable because Mr. Seham was in full favor and support of the EDNY filing - right up until the time that he wasn't the one filing the case. The EDNY case was filed because we believe the Company has been violating the law by frustrating the grievance, arbitration and negotiating process to their economic advantage. When the Company violates the law, I believe that the pilots want us to fight back with the tools available regardless of how much of an uphill battle it is to show up in court in America as a labor union. And that is what we did - we made a tough decision to defend the pilots' rights with the EDNY filing.

Finally, concerns over Mr. Seham's billing practices were coming to light. Although, by his own admission, we had substantially reduced our use of his firm during the late spring and summer, Seham's bills were actually increasing. At this point we became aware of the overbilling problems the Southwest pilots had encountered with Seham. Scrutiny of the bills produced more questions than answers and we sought professional advice to protect the organization. Many firms specializing in auditing legal bills were contacted and interviewed. Preliminary reviews by auditors told us that the Seham bills were "un-auditable", "some of the most uninformative invoices ever seen", and "a significant deviation from the standard bills law firms submit". This preliminary indication that there may have been irregularities in Seham's billing practices with USAPA is a situation that the Board has a responsibility to look into. And so, faced with these allegations, I recommended that the Board authorize an audit of all of our legal bills, which is under way. Unfortunately, after eight weeks of asking the Seham firm for the information necessary to audit the bills, not a single shred of the requested information has been forthcoming. Zero.

Interestingly, instead of cooperating with USAPA and simply providing the requested documentation, Seham has retained counsel which specializes in defending attorneys against ethics charges and disbarment proceedings. I for one find it interesting that he feels the need for this when he has simply been asked to provide substantiation for his billing to us. USAPA has an absolute right to the information we are requesting. The audit will proceed, with or without Mr. Seham's cooperation. Each of our other law firms has indicated they will cooperate fully.

We have found that Mr. Seham has presided over his own demise at many labor unions, and he certainly isn't helping himself here at USAPA. I would be happier if this all were not so, but our obligations to maintain competent, ethical and effective counsel will not be hindered.

I am happy to report that attorneys Brian O'Dwyer and Pat Szymanski are offering us many opportunities that were not previously available. Most recently, the Board approved the reassignment  of the Phoenix Declaratory Judgment case to Szymanski and O'Dwyer. Aside from the fact that we cannot be represented by a firm that presents basic trust issues, O'Dwyer is a seasoned labor attorney with political clout that was simply unavailable before. Szymanski is a very experienced RLA attorney who served as general counsel to the Teamsters and Mr. Hoffa for seven years. Their approach is decidedly different from the high confrontation that marked Seham's interaction with everyone, from the judges to his attorney counterparts on the other side. Being advocates for your position doesn't require foment and hostility with those on the other side. A fresh approach to our legal strategy will produce healthier results.

I know that there are additional questions that have been raised. If you want more information, one accurate place to get more information is the recent CLT update that you can read by clicking here. In addition, we have assembled a short series of Q&As on this topic that you can read by clicking here.

None of these decisions were made lightly. All were made after due deliberation and after a full review of the facts. This organization will be managed methodically and dispassionately with only your best interests in mind. I am extremely confident that we are in a position to move forward with more competent legal counsel than we had before. We are well aware that all of this may not be very interesting to many pilots and we will be communicating to you on the critical topics of the status of our contract and seniority dispute in the next few days.


Captain Michael Cleary