Midwest MEC Chairman Capt. Tony Freitas’ Remarks to the ALPA Executive Board
October 28, 2009
Thank you, Captain Prater. Members of the Executive Board, my ALPA brothers and sisters, thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.
I am Captain Tony Freitas and I am most likely the last MEC chairman at Midwest Airlines because five days from today, the last Midwest Airlines flight will land in Milwaukee. On that day all of our operations will cease and all of our remaining aircraft will be returned to Boeing.
With the furlough of all of the remaining Midwest pilots, over 25 years of history—almost 12 years of it with ALPA—comes to an end.
I want to take a moment to thank Captain Prater, all the leadership, past and present, and the staff for all the support we have received over the years and especially over the last two years. As always the list of people to thank is far too long to name everyone and it covers every department of the organization, but I would like to especially mention Barbara Gottshalk of Communications, Marcia Eubanks of Economic & Financial Analysis, and Richard Pavel of the R&I Department. They have been with us through thick and thin and over the years they have become our friends.
I also especially want to thank Andrew Shostack of Representation and Marcus Migliore of Legal. Even I don’t know exactly how many hours they’ve devoted to helping us, but I do know enough to say on behalf of all the pilots at Midwest, “Gentlemen, we thank you. It is deeply appreciated.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, we at Midwest have been fighting this battle in one form or another for years. And the fight is not over, for the true travesty is that even though there will be no Midwest pilots flying after next week, there will still be airplanes flying around with Midwest written on them – airplanes that will be flown by pilots on someone else’s seniority list.
The story of how management manipulated things to get to this point is long and complex. It is the story of how we were outsourced, downsized, and outrageously replaced by lower cost labor with no motivation other than management’s desire to establish a new floor for pilot costs for a significant portion of the domestic market.
It was only one year ago when our then MEC Chairman, Captain Jay Schnedorf, stood in front of this body and sounded the warning as to what this fight is about. He said and I quote:
“…each of our respective airline managements would like us to view this as an isolated issue only affecting a small airline like Midwest … Make no mistake: it is a fight to determine the future of our piloting profession across all airlines – especially those within ALPA. It is the race to the 100-seat market and a race that we must win for the sake of our profession.”
Jay was right. How the law and the system can be twisted to achieve this result is a sad story, but it is only part of the story. For this goes beyond the battle for the 100-150 seat market. This goes to managements’ efforts to drive us all to the lowest common denominator. It goes to their efforts to erode the respect with which we as professional pilots are held. This truly is a fight to determine the future of the piloting profession.
And Ladies and Gentlemen, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that part of the problem lies with all of us. For part of the reason the Midwest pilots are in the position we are in is because of what pilot groups do to other pilot groups. As long as we as pilots are willing to accept artificial divisions, to see “them or us” instead of just “us”, we will be subject to the manipulations of management. Until we as pilots stand up and say that there is no real difference between the pilot walking out to a Triple7 and the one walking out to a Dash7, there is no real difference between the pilot flying 400 people out of Atlanta and the one flying 40 people out of Albany, or the one flying 400,000 pounds of freight out of Anchorage.
Until we no longer divide ourselves, managements will continue to exploit those divisions and we will all suffer for it. Take a look at the Midwest story and realize it can happen anywhere. It is happening at United and at Eagle and it can happen throughout the industry. Management can always come up with ways to justify so-called business decisions and split us apart. The flying your pilots have always done under your contracts can be outsourced to lower cost labor. Notice I didn’t say to less qualified pilots, I said to lower cost labor. The Midwest pilots are more experienced than the pilots who are replacing us, but that’s not why were being replaced.
Managements don’t care about experience or skill or performance, they only care about cost. The pilots at Midwest were offered a deal that would have undercut the lower cost labor brought in to replace us — we refused. We refused not because we hoped to be heroes and protect the good of fellow pilots across the industry. We refused because we knew the truth. We knew that accepting management’s offer would not guarantee our
jobs. We knew that we would only wind up a club in managements’ hands. A club they would wield against the entire industry as they continue to whipsaw us all down to the lowest level. To the lowest level that we as professional pilots will allow them to go. While I regret the price the Midwest pilots are paying, I’m proud that as a group we stood up and said, “No. Not us. We won’t be your pawns. This is as far as you go.”
My ALPA brothers and sisters, the Midwest pilots are the canary in the coal mine and our song is now ended. I hope this body will heed the warning. I challenge this body as the leaders of ALPA to recommit to a fundamental principle in the way we approach the challenges that face us. A principle that says that from this day forward we will look at every challenge in terms of how it impacts all pilots, not just Delta pilots or Mesaba pilots or FedEx pilots or passenger pilots or cargo pilots or any other made-up category of pilots.
For until we all stand together and say “no lower,” “no professional pilot anywhere should work under those conditions,” we will all continue to suffer the attacks of managements across the spectrum.
If we stand together, we can make every new management attack on one pilot group an opportunity to forge a more solid foundation for all pilots. Together we can take every attempt to divide us and turn it into an event that unites us.
I know this is possible because it has happened to us. Our ALPA brothers and sisters at AirTran saw what was happening at Midwest and they decided they needed to do something. So, two weeks ago they passed a resolution of support for the Midwest pilots. But that wasn’t enough for them. Actions speak louder than words and they acted. They approached their management to help secure preferential interviews and hiring at AirTran for furloughed Midwest pilots. Our managements and our companies may have been bitter rivals, but that never infected the two pilot groups. The AirTran leadership saw only fellow ALPA pilots in trouble and they demonstrated in the finest way possible what being ALPA is all about. To MEC Chairman Linden Hillman and to all the AirTran pilots I can only say, “Thank you.”
My ALPA brothers and sisters, if we stand together, we can restore our profession to its rightful position, but only if we stand together. For the Midwest pilots a chapter is coming to a close, but for all of us the fight continues. I know this is a fight we can win because I know that underneath it all we are all professionals, we are all pilots, and we are all ALPA.
I thank you.