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ALPA Negotiation Deadline Looms

As pilot contract negotiations
between American Eagle management and its pilots, represented by the Air
Line Pilots Association, Int’l, resume today, frustrated pilots are
calling on management to “do the right thing” and take advantage of the
remaining 21 days before the deadline for the end of scheduled bargaining
on Sept. 12. Although some progress has been made during the talks, which
contractually can only last 150 days, the two parties are far apart on
major issues, such as wage rates, retirement, insurance, and scheduling
issues. These negotiations are part of several amendment rounds that were
incorporated into the Eagle pilots’ 16-year agreement to ensure that its
terms and conditions would be adjusted every four years, to keep pace with
pilot contracts at peer carriers and to reflect the level of prosperity at
American Eagle Airlines. The pilots provided labor stability when they
negotiated the current contract in 1997 in exchange for pay and work rules
that would grow with the industry, but that hasn’t materialized.

“American Eagle pilots are upset that our contract has not seen any
significant improvements in the last seven years,” said Captain Herb Mark,
chairman of the Eagle pilots’ Master Executive Council. “Despite American
Eagle’s continuous profits, increased load factors, and expanding fleets,
the terms and conditions of our labor agreement have fallen well below
those of our industry peers. Many of our junior pilots are struggling to
make ends meet, and our senior pilots cannot afford to retire.”

Pilots like Bernie McFadden, a fifth-year, LaGuardia-based first officer,
are feeling the pinch. “With a wife and three kids, it’s been a challenge
just to get by at times,” said McFadden. “Our pay scales have not kept up
with the general cost of living and it’s getting more and more expensive
to work in New York. These days, it seems like I spend more time away from
my family and have less to show for it,” he added. McFadden receives
government health care assistance from the state of New York.

The starting salary for an American Eagle first officer is a trifling
$18,400 a year. Many Eagle pilots board aircraft every week to commute
from less expensive cities to major urban centers, where they are based,
in order to maintain some quality of life for their families and find
affordable housing.

Although the world’s largest regional airline continues to thrive
financially, much of their success is a direct result of the pilots’
professionalism and dedication. The airline is so short on pilots that
operations are frequently disrupted and passengers inconvenienced.
Compounding the problem, American Eagle is having difficulty attracting
new pilots because of the abysmally low wages and grueling schedules that
Eagle is known for in the industry. Even though there are over 11,000
domestic pilots on furlough from other airlines, only a few of them have
applied at American Eagle. In fact, out of the 2,500 pilots furloughed
from American Airlines, only 161 have yet elected to take a guaranteed
position as captain at American Eagle.


“We’ve played a major role in our company’s success,” said Capt. Mark.
“It’s time for Eagle management to do the right thing by restoring our
wages and working conditions to a level both commensurate with our
company’s growth and profitability and competitive with our competitors’
pilot contracts. We need an agreement that reflects our contributions to
American Eagle’s success. It’s time right now for management to bring
serious proposals to the bargaining table that address our pilots’ needs,”
he added.