USAirways’ Pilots Union Goes Federal On Its Own Members

Most folks’ mental model of unions is that they are representing the interests of ‘the workers’ against ‘management’. That’s frequently not the case, at least as unions age, they often represent the entrenched union leadership over the interests of the workers, if even such a thing as a common interest across employees is a coherent concept (and this phenomenon isn’t uncommon with corporate management, either, just replace ’employees’ with ‘shareholders’).

Over at USAirways we’re seeing the unfolding of one of the most interesting and vivid (from the outside, I feel bad for the players) illustration of how employee interests aren’t a unified whole — and we’re watching some of its most malicious consequences, first hand.

PlaneBuzz reports on the lawsuit which the new union representing pilots at USAirways has filed against some of its own membership. Recall that USAirways East pilots (the pilots of the acquired USAirways) are a slim majority of pilots at the airline, and they didn’t like the binding arbitration ruling that was imposed by arbitrators regarding the integration of seniority lists with the USAirways West pilots (the former America West pilots). Since their union rules required sticking with that arbitration ruling, since both sets of pilots were represented by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), they tossed out the union and fomred a new one whose sole purpose was to disadvantage those USAirways West pilots.

Naturally, this has generated some resentment amongst the former America West folks who now have to pay dues which will be spent against their interests. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve engaged in some guerilla tactics – really all that’s available to them – to fight back.

Now the new union, representing the interests of the former USAirways pilots, has gone federal — filing a lawsuit accusing some of their own members of “racketeering.”

Specifically, PlaneBuzz cites the complaints:

1) a deluge of frivolous calls to USAPA’s toll-free telephone line in order to jam the service and impose costs on the Union;
2) false communications to USAPA’s safety line – the equivalent of maliciously triggering a fire alarm;
3) communications to US Airways pilots asserting that their “safety” will be jeopardized if they pay dues to USAPA;

4) the false attribution of defamatory statements to USAPA officers by use of a slightly altered e-mail address; 5) maliciously arranging for USAPA officers to receive subscriptions to electronic services, including sexually-related services, in an apparent effort to defame these officers and sabotage their electronic communications;

6) a concerted effort to deprive pilots at US Airways the ability to commute to work by denying USAPA members the use of the cockpit jump seat; and

7) a conspiracy to violate the union security provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreements and to induce US Airways to violate these same provisions.

It’s terrible for the participants. I wouldn’t want to merge with USAirways now, either. But it’s sure a great political science lesson.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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