Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA Vice-President—Administration/Secretary
105th Regular Executive Board Meeting
October 27, 2009
“Integrating New Technology to Achieve Superior Results”
Good morning and welcome to the 105th Executive Board meeting.
As we do every spring and fall, we have come together to review and discuss the accomplishments and progress of this great organization. Despite the challenges facing ALPA during these difficult times, we have evolved into a leaner, more efficient organization. But whether we have good times or bad, it is always important for us to listen to our members' comments and feedback, and respond with improvements that they appreciate.
Every day I hear from members wanting to know how their dues dollars are being spent and what ALPA is doing to enhance their membership. Adding value for our members continues to be a high priority as we focus on streamlining processes, adding benefits, and offering additional conveniences.
Let me share with you some of the highlights spanning the past six months. As technology marches forward, so does ALPA. Your union is determined to harness today’s innovations to promote our message. The ALPA Communications and IT Departments have been working closely together to fine tune, revise, and keep ALPA’s presence on the Internet front and center.
This morning, we flipped on the switch for the debut of a revised members-only section of ALPA.org. ALPA members will now sign on to the new members-only site directly from the ALPA home page. The new Web pages are visually more appealing, and offer intuitive navigation, because they were developed with user-friendliness in mind. It is now identical in layout and design to the rest of the ALPA website. Even small details such as the way you log on to the website were placed on the drawing board. No longer do you need to remember your ALPA member number to log on. You can create your own username and password.
The ALPA website has always offered a vast amount of information, and figuring out where to find that information has often been a daunting task. We realized it was overwhelming and have made refinements that will now speed up navigating to the information you seek. Simple tasks such as member profile details are now easier to review and change. We have amended the Pilot Information page in “My ALPA” to display a member’s standing in a color-coded box. On the member Contact Information page, we now provide clarity to show how members can update their contact and status information.
I want to bring your attention to the new ALPA Resource tab. Addressing one of the strategic priorities of the 2008 Board of Directors, this new “ALPA” tab will soon house easily accessible information about all ALPA departments and national committees. This will enable you to access a specific area of ALPA expertise or seek the assistance needed without spending a lot of time searching.
Coinciding with these website improvements, you may have noticed ALPA’s implementation of RSS feeds and Twitter service, which was launched at the Air Safety Forum in August. Because many ALPA members carry laptops, smart-phones, and other e-mail devices when they travel, the Association has broadened its arsenal of communications tools to make sure that members have a variety of ways to stay in touch with their union.
ALPA used this year’s Air Safety Forum as a perfect opportunity to provide news updates through Twitter. The Association uses the service to keep members informed about relevant issues and events. Since launching two months ago, we have sent “tweets” on many topics such as pilot group initiative, our union’s work, and items within the labor movement. Our members are now discovering this handy communications tool and many followers have signed up, with more coming aboard every day.
Along with Twitter, the ALPA website now offers an RSS feed. By clicking on the orange RSS logo on the ALPA home page, our members can choose from a menu of information categories and receive summary updates as soon as new information is posted. This convenience is available on the national level and for MEC websites as well. Our IT and Communications staff have already implemented these services to some of our pilot groups. Following ALPA’s example, some of our member groups have utilized Twitter and RSS to communicate with their pilots.
We’ve also made balloting procedures better for our members. ALPA’s balloting vendor implemented a change that allows our members to log on to the members-only portion of the ALPA website to access voting. This has eliminated the need to establish separate voter credentials when voting via the Internet.
Additionally, any time a member is an eligible participant in an MEC or local ballot, an icon will appear on their intranet home page alerting them to the open ballot. This icon will appear for the duration of the ballot period, and when a vote has been cast, an e-mail confirmation will be sent to the voting member’s e-mail address on file with the Association.
The Membership and Council Services staff is also sending a general notice to all eligible participants when a ballot opens and a reminder five to seven days before the ballot closes. These communications have been well-received, and the last two MEC ballots have reached participation above 90 percent.
Besides the website, we have been working hard to bring a better variety of insurance products to ALPA. I want to welcome Dave Vance into his new role as ALPA’s senior VEBA and insurance plan advisor. Dave and the staff of the Finance Department are focused on shopping the marketplace for additional products and services that will be beneficial to our members.
The first example of this change will happen on November 1st when a new measure of security will be introduced to the ALPA insurance portfolio. That’s when we will introduce a term life insurance policy that guarantees 20-year-level coverage at level premiums, even after retirement.
Tied into our drive to offer new insurance products, we are working in conjunction with our preferred financial provider, Charles Schwab, to improve communication of the products and services that ALPA offers its members. With this in mind, we will be rolling out new advertisements in Air Line Pilot magazine as well as adding features to ALPA’s insurance website in 2010.
For FedEx, we are in the process of becoming the official administrator for its insurance programs, which will allow us to secure additional savings for the group. Of course, the goal in offering quality products is to attract greater participation, which we can turn into greater savings for our members.
The past six months have brought some changes to ALPA’s membership base. Despite the economic environment we have dealt with this year, membership has increased to 53,361, thanks to bringing in AirTran and Colgan. I see this as a solid step in affirming ALPA’s Unity Resolution, adopted at the 2000 BOD to reach ALPA’s goal of representing all airline pilots in the U.S. and Canada.
Unfortunately, the economy has also had a negative influence on the number of ALPA members furloughed. Our furloughed membership continues to increase and has jumped to 3,383. This is an increase of 571 additional furloughed brothers and sisters since I last spoke to you. Thankfully, our National Furloughed Pilots Support Program is there for them. This program coordinates the furlough activities at each carrier and provides a single point of contact. As members of ALPA, these pilots will not face the stress of being furloughed alone and will have ALPA beside them every step of the way.
I also want to respectfully acknowledge our 1,220 members on military leave and presently performing their patriotic duties. Lastly, please take notice that members in bad standing have dropped in half from six months ago while at the same time, there has been no increase in inactive participant members.
Now for an update on AERF. At the Spring Executive Board, I announced the kickoff of the Donate $3 campaign. I want to take a moment to thank those members who donated generously. To date, 1,245 ALPA members and employees have responded to the appeal. Thanks to this generosity, AERF has raised over $35,000 so far in 2009.
Natural disasters can strike without warning. The flooding and the declared state of emergency in 17 Georgia counties last month is only the most recent example. Two ALPA members received assistance after Mother Nature unleashed her fury in Georgia.
For those of you who have not yet made your donation to AERF, I ask once again for you to step up to the plate and help make a difference in the life of a fellow member pilot in need. If every member makes at least a 3-dollar tax-deductable donation, AERF will be able to help all members who seek assistance.
Also, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Sam Landry from ExpressJet, our newest AERF volunteer director. Sam will team up with Michael Bowen from Continental and Steve Gillen from United to manage AERF for the next year. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Bill Pollock, AERF volunteer and director who stepped down after completing his term. Captain Pollock’s dedication was an asset to AERF, and he will be missed.
In closing, I want to share a personal observation with you. Recently, as I was traveling home, I took time to observe pilots in uniform passing through the terminals. 48 ALPA-carrier members passed me. Sadly, only 4 out of 48 had any sort of ALPA identification on their uniform.
As we all understand, it is critical for a union to have a cohesive, well-connected base. By witnessing such a small percentage of members displaying their pride in ALPA, it concerns me greatly that we have much work to do to bring many of our members into the fold. I’d like to ask each of you to make your own observations. Do the members of your group display their ALPA wings? Are they sending the message, “I'm proud to be a member of ALPA”? As always, Membership will gladly send you pins or lanyards if you need them.
ALPA’s reputation comes from the work of many dedicated men and women who have come before us and from the focused and determined efforts of our current pilot members and staff. We are the largest union in the world run exclusively by pilots, exclusively for pilots. It is time for us to raise the level of awareness of our dues-paying members about how ALPA protects them, provides service for them, and offers great value.
Lastly, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve you and express my appreciation for the many goals we have accomplished together. I’m convinced that the work you and I do here each day makes a difference in the lives of every member flying for an ALPA carrier. Together, we make it happen.