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Chapter 22
American Airlines Goes It Alone

Clancy Sayen’s departure from the presidency should have created a moment for reaching out, for compromise and conciliation. If ever there was a time for new beginnings, it was when the 1962 convention elected Charley Ruby, an obvious compromise candidate.

It was not to be. The American Airlines (AAL) delegates sat stonily through the session that defeated their chosen candidate, John Carroll of Trans World Airlines (TWA), and then silently refused the traditional gesture of unity—a procedural voice vote making Charley Ruby’s election “unanimous.” This ominous sign indicated that the AAL group’s habit of opposition would not be broken easily. As later events would show, the AAL leadership had already decided on either total autonomy within ALPA or a formal break. Charley Ruby was going to have no honeymoon.

How do we explain the AAL leadership’s persistent hostility toward ALPA? A case can be made that the anger they had directed at Sayen for so long (and would now transfer to Ruby) was a by-product of emotional tensions brought on by the jet age. AAL was the first airline to put the new jets into widespread domestic service, and the pressures on AAL pilots by 1956 were tremendous. Of course, other airline pilots would soon be moving into the jet age, but the AAL pilots were first, they were worried, and they might well have sought some psychological relief from their predicament by scapegoating.

Traditionally, scapegoating begins with a cause célèbre, something that seems particularly outrageous to the affected group. Modern politi­cal revolutionaries have used the cause célèbre to stir up their followers against established authority. The AAL dissidents found their cause célèbre in the firing of Capt. Wayne Allison.

Walter M. Cary, one of the few Sayen supporters at AAL, wrote to Sayen in 1956 warning that the Allison case was becoming political and cogently analyzing the situation at his airline:

Hostility toward ALPA is based on fear of the future. With the jets coming fast, we will be hit “firstest with the mostest,” and the boys are afraid. Your calm attitude is extremely important, but a lot of our guys don’t have the patience. We need your experience, be­cause the next few years are going to be rough. There are a few dead cats in the closet that a few radicals would like to drag out and fling around. The most notable one is the Allison case. 

The Allison affair had its roots in AAL’s “screening” program for senior pilots at the Ardmore, Okla., training base. From the beginning of the Ardmore school in July 1947, AAL pilots suspected that its real purpose was to get rid of troublesome senior pilots. With Dave Behncke’s strong support, Wayne Allison, the local council chairman at Tulsa, led the fight against the Ardmore school, and AAL backed down. But from then on, Wayne Allison was a marked man.

Tom Latta probably knows more about the Allison case than anybody, for he sat through every grievance hearing as the ALPA representative. “What Allison did wasn’t smart,” Latta explains, “but there’s no doubt that if he’d been anybody else, the company wouldn’t have fired him. We proved they’d been keeping a file on him with the avowed purpose of building a case so they could fire him. Then he pulled this stunt that gave them a per­fect excuse.”

Allison’s “stunt” was something that might have earned a “good company man” a pat on the back. While en route to California in a DC-6, Allison lost an engine over Arizona. The weather was perfect, so Allison, after consulting with the dispatcher, proceeded to California on three engines. The company much preferred having the aircraft in California to having it in Arizona, so Allison humored them. Admittedly, the AAL dispatcher’s advice to continue was ambiguous, and Allison’s cocky urge to display his own airmanship warped his judgment.

“Allison’s great violation had been in failing to land at Winslow,” says retired AAL Capt. John O’Connell, “but before he got to Burbank he had vio­lated about every rule in the book.”

Federal authorities heard that an AAL plane had continued a trip in violation of federal regulations and suspended Allison, pending a hearing. AAL then promptly fired Allison.

“Wayne Allison was kind of a ‘cowboy type,’” says AAL’s Roy Dooley. “But he was a strong ALPA man and a good pilot, not one of the typical old bull­headed pilots nobody could teach anything, who regarded company regu­lations as something to be ignored.”

“Allison was a very difficult person,” adds John O’Connell, “but he had a lot of friends, and he had a good showing at the first hearing held in New York, maybe 150 pilots.”

Clancy Sayen actively involved himself in the Allison affair from the start, partly to prove to the AAL pilot group that ALPA would stick up for one of the AAL pilots’ heroes. But Allison proved a disappointment. Rather than pursuing his case through the normal channels, Allison chose to file suit against AAL on his own, seeking a large sum of money. As is normally the case when an individual and his lawyer go up against a battery of high‑priced corporate legal talent, Allison lost. Sayen had meanwhile arranged a deal by which AAL would take Allison back, but the terms were so humili­ating that Allison would not accept that solution. So Sayen, perhaps frus­trated by his dealings with Allison, washed his hands of the case.

“Sayen did a heck of a job for Allison,” insists Tom Latta. “In effect, he got [Allison’s] job back. All Wayne had to do was say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ll be a good boy in the future.’ But that wasn’t good enough. Allison didn’t want to just come back to work, he wanted retribution, wanted the people who had fired him fired.”

So Allison was out, but his case and the resentments it aroused among poorly informed rank-and-file AAL members continued to dog ALPA’s lead­ers well into the Ruby era. In 1956, the dissidents began using the Allison case to discredit ALPA’s national officers. ALPA loyalist Breezy Wynne tried in vain to talk sense to the AAL pilots. As chairman of Council 39 at Chicago, Wynne sent a newsletter in September 1956 to all council members, stating:

I get tired of hearing people bellyaching that “ALPA let us down” and dragging up long-dead issues, trying to make a stink. The ef­fort taken to work up the stink is effort taken from trying to get radar in the [Convair] 240s and [DC]-6s. But who cares? The stink is the thing, not the radar; politics, not dull, dreary representation. Remember how Allison refused the aid he had coming in order to try for a $494,450 settlement in court? He lost his court case, as many forecasted, and now he wants his job back. Whether Allison gets his job back or not, I am concerned overall about the time and energy being spent [by the MEC, master executive council] on his case when it could be spent on the proposed training program for jets. I just wish the MEC would show as much compassion for those of us who still have jobs as they do for Allison.

Despite the best efforts of ALPA loyalists like Wynne, the rank-and-file AAL pilot had no real chance to be educated about the Allison case. The AAL MEC, which was exploiting the case for all the anti-Sayen sentiment it was worth, monopolized the channels of communication to AAL pilots with distorted accounts.

Against this background, the celebrated 22-day strike of Dec. 18, 1958, to Jan. 10, 1959, took place on AAL. The 1956 convention had narrowed the grounds under which strike benefits could be paid. The 1958 Eastern Air Lines (EAL) strike over ALPA’s crew complement policy had caused such heavy expense that the Executive Committee recommended, and the Board of Directors approved, that in the future, an airline on strike for purely economic reasons would have to be out at least half of the month to be authorized benefits. This policy was no secret, and the AAL negotiating committee and MEC were well aware of it. Although the AAL pilots deserved strike benefits under the “properly authorized strike” clause, they did not meet the half-month standard in either December or January and hence could not collect strike benefits. Naturally the AAL pilots, who had been hearing the assessments of the Capital and EAL strikes, felt cheated. Their outrage should properly have been directed at their own leadership rather than ALPA’s, for Clancy Sayen had specifically warned them about the strike benefits problem before they went out, as Doc Spencer recalls:

It is positively not true that Sayen manipulated the American pilots out of strike benefits. There were changes in policy having to do with strike benefits to protect the Association’s exchequer and to make sure that pilots wouldn’t leave the Association in droves if they were going to be hit with very high strike assessments. The current leadership at American wanted to strike, but Sayen be­lieved we just couldn’t have three airlines striking at once, so he re­fused to allow the strike all fall, and the guys got extremely dissatis­fied with the delay. Around Christmas there was a confrontation between Gene Seal and Sayen during which Seal said, “We don’t think you’ll let us strike.” And Sayen said, “Pick a date.” So they did pick a date, and it was just before Christmas. The guys on American were so excited that they gave no thought to how this would affect their strike benefits. I can remember clearly sitting in the down­town hotel in the coffee shop when strike benefits were being dis­cussed. Sayen said, “Do you guys know what you’re doing, because if you strike now you’re going to cut yourselves short on strike benefits?” Well, they said, “We don’t care about any of that stuff, we want a strike.” The only people present were those guys on the negotiating committee, and their minds were completely off every­thing but that Sayen had agreed to a strike. After Sayen left, I brought up the subject again of the inappropriateness of going on strike at that time because of the change in the policy, but they would have none of that.

The final brick in the wall that AAL pilots built between themselves and the rest of the profession was crew complement. As we have seen, AAL management fought the original Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) order to carry a third crewman on DC-6s to the bitter end, and they never forgave ALPA for winning that fight in 1948. ALPA’s second victory on the crew com­plement issue came in early 1961, when the Feinsinger commission appointed by President Kennedy essentially agreed with the idea that the third crewman on turbine equipment should be “pilot qualified.” ALPA’s policy (discussed fully in Chapter 17) required the companies to bear the expense of qualifying flight engineers as pilots. Naturally, the companies resented this training expense, preferring to “grandfather in” existing flight engineers, many of whom were ex-mechanics, and to hire only pilots as flight engineers in the future. By opposing ALPA’s policy (which pro­tected individual flight engineers while allowing them to upgrade), airline management made common cause with the Flight Engineers International Association (FEIA), which feared destruction of a functioning union. ALPA endured several strikes over crew complement, notably on EAL, and won its point by dint of main economic force.

By the early 1960s the battle was all but won, and the FEIA was a fading force in the industry. Crew complement was Sayen’s baby, and in carrying the field with it he had possibly become, as Aviation Daily rather breathlessly described him, “the most powerful man in U.S. civil aviation today.”

Ironically, the AAL split of 1963 came just when the crew complement policy was all but settled industrywide. Put simply, the AAL negotiating committee lost its nerve and succumbed to management blandishments. A further irony is that the committee did so in the name of “saving our old friends, the professional flight engineers, and a fraternal union, the FEIA.” But once the AAL group had bolted, they essentially turned their backs on FEIA, and AAL’s management hired only pilots as flight engineers. In return, management offered the AAL negotiating committee a “sweetheart” contract as a reward.

How was the AAL negotiating committee able to “run away” on crew complement and sign a contract that was in total violation of a policy that ALPA had risked bankruptcy to uphold? The first reason was timing; the second reason was conspiracy.

Almost at the same time that Clancy Sayen announced his intention to resign in 1961, the AAL negotiating committee secretly decided to disre­gard ALPA crew complement policy. In a transitionary time, with the pro­longed Southern Airways (SOU) strike still unsettled and the relations be­tween Sayen and the AAL group strained generally, it is not surprising that nobody would be watching the shop carefully. But, in addition, a staff member allegedly assisted the AAL negotiators’ deception of ALPA’s na­tional officers. Sometime during his detached service, this staff member ceased informing ALPA headquarters of the course that AAL negotiators were taking on crew complement. In November 1962, as the dimensions of the AAL group’s breach with ALPA policy became clear, the Executive Committee directed Ruby to fire the staff member forthwith. (He later went on the Allied Pilots Association [APA] payroll.)

As we have seen, Charley Ruby came to office in July 1962 with no real understanding of the advanced state of the betrayal being perpetrated by the AAL negotiators. “I had only a very skimpy knowledge of the thing,” says Ruby, “but the American MEC spelled it out to me pretty quickly. My only rejoinder was that if every airline member of the Association had the same philosophy, we would be split up into separate airline representations, none of which would have muscle. I told them they’d either have to learn to live with a unified effort or suffer the consequences, and that my job was to enforce ALPA policy.”

Almost immediately, the AAL pilots became aware that dealing with Charley Ruby was a new ball game. As Arlin V. “Al” Read, another ALPA diehard at AAL, put it, “They [the AAL dissidents] knew Sayen well enough to know they could bluff him, and they did bluff him time after time. But Charley Ruby couldn’t be bluffed.”

The AAL dissidents and Charley Ruby were thus on a collision course, one that the new ALPA president could not shift. Either he would force AAL to toe the mark established by other pilot groups in costly strike actions, or he would meekly surrender to the AAL group’s extortionate demand for special status within ALPA. Ruby knew that submission to the AAL group would destroy ALPA’s internal discipline and open the way for rapid disin­tegration. Faced with that prospect, there was no alternative to a fight with the current AAL leadership.

By 1962, the new AAL MEC chairman was Nick O’Connell, a longtime anti-Sayen. In June 1962, even before Sayen’s successor was known, the AAL MEC apparently made a firm decision to leave ALPA if the new president did not grant them total autonomy in contract negotiations. Nobody at ALPA headquarters knew about the course that negotiations were taking un­til August 1962, when a member of the negotiating committee, Capt. Har­old R. Miller, broke ranks with the dissidents.

Acting on Miller’s information, in August 1962 Ruby called AAL Master Chairman Nick O’Connell to account for the actions of the negotiating committee. O’Connell arranged a joint meeting between Ruby and the AAL negotiating committee, during which Ruby informed them that their approach on crew complement was jeopardizing recent hard-won gains. The AAL negotiators, with the full support of Master Chairman O’Connell, then were on the verge of signing a contract that would effectively junk ALPA’s mandatory crew complement policy. Instead of requiring three crewmen, each with a minimum commercial and instrument rating, the AAL contract would call for “some additional training” for the nonpilot flight engineer as a fail-safe measure, with such training being left up to the company. By not having to provide nonpilot flight engineers with a commercial and instrument rating, AAL’s management would save an estimated $10 million. The AAL negotiating committee, headed by Dick Lyons, assured Ruby that the FEIA supported the negotiating committee’s settlement.

Lyons’s assertion later turned out to be incorrect. The previous May, the so-called Taylor board had affirmed the broad outlines of both ALPA policy and the Feinsinger commission by requiring the company to provide nonpilot engineers with a commercial license and an instrument rating on company time and expense. The decision of this arbitration board, com­posed of George Taylor, Edgar Kaiser, and AFL-CIO chief George Meany, apparently settled the crew complement issue once and for all, to every­one’s satisfaction. Ruby thought it surprising that the AAL negotiators stated flatly that the nonpilot flight engineers on AAL were opposed to the Taylor board’s decision. It was a classic case of Rashomon-style ambiguity again. ALPA was about to find itself in the awkward position of upholding the rights of AAL’s flight engineers, whose union, FEIA, had until lately been engaged in a bloody war with ALPA. Even more incredibly, ALPA would be fighting its own pilots at AAL, who also claimed to be fighting for the “rights” of professional nonpilot engineers to be let alone!

After checking with Joe Manning, leader of the AAL flight engineers, Ruby learned that Manning was enraged with O’Connell. Manning called O’Connell “Big Daddy” and insisted that the AAL flight engineers preferred dealing with ALPA.

Although Charley Ruby had no intention of allowing the AAL negotiations to proceed, he had operated previously on the assumption that Nick O’Connell was an honorable man who was sincere when he spoke of the AAL pilots’ desire to “protect” the flight engineers at AAL from having to undergo mandatory pilot training they did not want. Manning flatly told Ruby that O’Connell was a liar. Ruby was in a quandary. If the AAL leadership was trying to deceive him with so obvious a lie, what did it portend for the future?

Charley Ruby saw no alternative but to begin formal expulsion proceedings against the AAL leadership. In October 1962, ALPA’s Executive Com­mittee passed a resolution affirming the crew complement policy once more and ordered the AAL dissidents to “reshape” negotiations to comply. Nick O’Connell attended the meeting. Faced with a warning that AAL’s course could lead to serious trouble, O’Connell agreed to acquaint the AAL negotiating committee with the Executive Committee’s views. He flatly re­fused, however, to obey the Executive Committee’s order to recess the negotiations.

Two tense months passed, during which the AAL negotiators defied the ALPA Executive Committee and continued meeting with the company. In a final attempt to restore internal harmony, Charley Ruby asked for a meet­ing with the full AAL negotiating committee in New York early in Decem­ber 1962. The meeting was inconclusive. A few days later, December 11–13, Ruby met with the AAL MEC in Chicago. Ruby warned the AAL pilots that adherence to ALPA’s crew complement policy was vital. “As a means of making clear to you the great stake we have in this area, not only for the American pilots but for the pilots of other trunk carriers,” Ruby told them, “we called together the master chairmen of every airline for a thorough discussion of the crew complement issue.” Ruby told the AAL pilots that they were jeopardizing the Association’s whole future for short-term gains. Then, turning tough, Ruby declared:

In a further attempt to resolve this most troublesome question, I have convened the Executive Committee to meet with you. It must be clear that this cannot be for the purpose of further debate. The pilots of other airlines affected by the crew complement policy have in no instance made an agreement for less than a commercial license and an instrument rating for the third crew member on jet equipment.

As your president, I have attempted to mediate and conciliate for many months to persuade people of goodwill to resolve these problems. I assure you that personal experience has taught me that the fruits of serious dissension among us are plucked by man­agement and do not yield gains to any of us. But there should be no misunderstanding—I am bound to implement policy, and this I in­tend to do. The Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and the master chairmen have affirmed a course from which I cannot and will not deviate.

The AAL negotiating committee, having previously informed the Executive Committee that it had “no intention of prejudicing a contract benefi­cial to American pilots,” denounced ALPA’s national leaders for “interfer­ence” with their efforts to achieve a “complete solution of the crew complement issue.” To no avail, Ruby again pleaded with the AAL pilots to get back on the crew complement reservation. “I think it behooves all of us,” Ruby wrote to O’Connell, “to do our utmost to solidify ALPA’s position and solidarity if we are to become an effective force over the years.”

Ruby’s appeal to 1930s-style unity fell on deaf ears. A few days later Ruby called Bill Whitacre, the AAL executive who was negotiating with the runa­way committee. Noting that the AAL negotiating committee was proceed­ing in violation of ALPA’s Constitution and By-Laws, Ruby warned Whitacre that signing a contract would lead to legal action under the Railway Labor Act.

Ruby’s threat gave Whitacre pause—no corporate executive wants to be responsible for costly legal action. In a conference between the AAL leadership and Whitacre on Jan. 3, 1963, the company apparently promised to sign a favorable contract with the pilots if the pilots would in turn agree to leave ALPA and form a company union.

During its January 8–11 meeting, the AAL MEC faced the moment of truth. For years they had been threatening to go the route of company unionism. Now, at long last, they had to decide. The company was dangling an enticing package of wages and working conditions, premised on their pilots’ willingness to deny the AAL flight engineers the benefits of the Taylor board settlement. The AAL dissidents took the bait.

“Therefore be it resolved,” the AAL MEC declared, “that the entire AAL pilot group goes on record as authorizing the AAL negotiating committee to conclude a contract and to further advise AAL management that the AAL pilots are agreeable to implementation of said contract with or without formal approval from ALPA.”

The die was cast. On January 11, the Executive Committee authorized Charley Ruby to file suit against AAL for violation of the Railway Labor Act. Also on January 11, Ruby wrote to AAL President C. R. Smith, ALPA’s old nemesis, that “any negotiations or agreements on behalf of the pilots in your employ must be conducted and made only with the consent of this Association, which is the authorized bargaining agent.”

On January 18, Whitacre answered Ruby’s letter. “The company has no alternative but to conclude an agreement,” Whitacre said, “since the per­sons in question occupy official status as members of the Association’s negotiating committee and appear to represent a majority of the company’s pilots.”

Ruby promptly appealed to rank-and-file AAL pilots over the heads of their own elected leadership. Beginning in late January 1963, he sent a series of bulletins to the AAL pilots in an attempt to “halt the steady diet of half-truths and misstatements about the Association, its officers, and poli­cies.” But only the AAL pilots could save themselves from the uncharted seas of company unionism. The ALPA loyalists on AAL began to rally for a desperate last-ditch attempt to stop their own runaway leadership, which was already circulating “authorization to act” cards among the rank and file. The ensuing contest between the AAL pilots left deep scars that persist to this day. Suffice it to say that the struggles of the minority of ALPA loyal­ists on AAL were foredoomed to failure, for the dissidents had been too long in control, and their propaganda campaign against ALPA had become too ingrained in the mental patterns of rank-and-file AAL pilots, whose indifference to ALPA affairs had left them poorly equipped to make judgments.

The initial ad hoc loyalist committee, made up of Harold Miller, H. E. “Doc” Merrill, Jim Jewell, Lloyd Wade, and Frank A. “Doc” Spencer, found itself totally on the defensive, trying to answer rumors. The AAL leadership had recently circulated the story that Clancy Sayen was still on ALPA’s payroll. “Fact!” wrote the loyalists in their newsletter. “Mr. Sayen was termi­nated from the ALPA payroll immediately upon completing the transition period stipulated. Since that time, he has had no direct ALPA assignment. He did represent the Braniff stewardesses for two days at a grievance hearing, for which he was paid by the stewardesses $252.39.”

As any political pro knows, if you can keep your opponent answering unsubstantiated charges, the mere refutation of them gives a sense of their validity to unthinking people. “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” is an unanswerable charge.

But more important than the political tactics used by the separatists was the company’s offer of an enticing package of wages and working condi­tions in return for the AAL pilots’ desertion of ALPA.

“You can always get a sweetheart contract if you agree to break a union,” says Carl Rubio of AAL, who retired in 1980 after paying full dues to ALPA his entire career. “This profession didn’t get to where it is by forming company unions. By remaining loyal to a real labor union, I found it easier to live with myself. And, anyway, the contract we got from the company in 1963 hasn’t held up all that well. Under the APA contract, American’s pilots can still go to work at 6 p.m. and wind up flying a tight approach at 7 a.m. the next morning.”

However, the majority of AAL pilots didn’t see things Rubio’s way. The AAL leadership argued that they were the wave of the future, that other airlines would quickly follow them out of ALPA. The AAL group made formal overtures to Pan Am, but the Pan Am group turned them down cold. The AAL leaders then approached TWA, where John Carroll, the former master chairman and defeated presidential candidate, fronted for them. Carroll argued strongly in favor of the AAL approach to crew complement policy in a letter to TWA Master Chairman Russ Derickson, denouncing the Taylor board settlement on TWA.

In response to Carroll’s propagandizing in favor of the AAL separatists, ALPA loyalist Tom Latta declared, “Crew complement is not the issue,” in a letter to Derickson:

The Turbo-Prop and Jet Study Committee never contemplated lesser qualifications than a commercial and instrument for the third crewman. When the recommendations were made to the 1956 convention, the AAL master chairman, C. E. Seal, stood up on the floor after the voting and asked that the record show that AAL had voted “unanimously” in support of the crew complement por­tion of the recommendations. Mr. Paul Atkins and Mr. Nicholas O’Connell were in attendance. Mr. O’Connell had a vote. I pre­sume he knew that his vote was “for.” The average member of AAL has become completely frustrated concerning what he can expect from ALPA because of “maverick” leadership. He hears only the anti-ALPA representative calling cadence and never knows he is out of step. Recent events show clearly that the AAL leaders are willing to sell every other pilot in ALPA “down the river.” The AAL pilot does not know how rocky the road is that his representatives have chosen for him.

I simply wonder how much political hay John Carroll is trying to cut. The recent actions at AAL confound reason and press upon the AAL pilot an unwarranted reputation of not caring what hap­pens to his fellow pilots at Eastern, United, TWA, or Ozark. John’s advice should be “get back in ALPA.”

One further motive in the AAL leadership group’s desire to leave ALPA must be mentioned. ALPA loyalists at AAL insist that the leaders had engaged in a consistent pattern of financial misconduct that Sayen had accepted but hard-nosed Charley Ruby would not. At Ruby’s request, Roy Dooley of AAL made a carefully documented study of the flight pay loss requests of the AAL negotiating committee and MEC. What Dooley found later led him to urge AFL-CIO President George Meany to seek prosecu­tion of the AAL leaders under the financial misconduct sections of the Landrum-Griffin law. Charley Ruby remembers:

I noticed a tendency for the American MEC to hold a lot of meet­ings, and when you get into a big airline, that’s awfully expensive. As I looked over the flight pay loss, some airlines, like Northwest and Continental, were stingy with the Association’s funds. Well, on American those boys didn’t care, moneywise. I started putting the squeeze on them and it ruffled their feathers, because they were spending money in ways I just wouldn’t stand for. I went to the American MEC early and told them they had a responsibility to control their own expenditures. I said I was going to be breathing down their necks on flight pay loss and that some of the ridiculous things they had been pulling better not happen again.

What “ridiculous things”? Early in the Ruby administration, the new treasurer, Scotty Devine of United Airlines, approached former Master Chair­man John O’Connell for some answers on the flight pay loss requests com­ing from AAL. O’Connell remembers:

Well, I kept quiet until I could get back to the Los Angeles base to check it out. I found a man who could only hold a copilot bid who was applying for captain’s pay loss at 100 percent night, at 84 hours and some minutes! The person who actually flew those trips was in the top 10 on the seniority list, and this guy was hundreds of numbers down the line. It was just plain theft, and it was very com­mon among that crowd, although I didn’t know it at the time. I would have taken it to the membership if I had had more evidence than this one case. It actually took Roy Dooley months to assemble all the evidence. 

The basement of Roy Dooley’s home in suburban Chicago is spread with dossiers on members of the various AAL committees. It takes an expert understanding of the AAL system to interpret the flight pay loss requests.

“In each case you’ll notice that the authorizing signature is [the same],” Dooley points out.

You couldn’t just hand in a bill and say, “My [local council] chair­man asked me to go out and count the runway lights at O’Hare.” But if you put down that Ted Linnert authorized it, if Accounting had any questions, they would go to Linnert, who was head of ALPA Engineering. [The staff member later fired] was the American guy, the staff negotiator whose duty it was to ride herd on the contract. The fact that he went with them when they split is very interesting. He was a Trojan horse. They were always close to 85 hours, which was the most ALPA would pay and a lot closer than most line pilots are able to get. They would bid trips that had such rotten working conditions it would be impossible to fly, but nobody would ever know about it. It came down to a moral judgment in that case, but suppose you give ALPA a bill for a trip that isn’t even on your bid sheet, or one that didn’t even exist? They used ALPA to increase their salaries without having to go sliding down any wet runways at night. All these folders show a pattern of deliberate excessive compensation at ALPA’s expense. They didn’t have the right to that money, and they weren’t using it for anything that was of any bene­fit to the American pilots. It was fraud, not just an interpretation of the rules. I’ll put it plain—they were a bunch of thieves.

Human motivation is complex. We will never know to what extent the AAL leaders’ decision to secede from ALPA was motivated by fear that Char­ley Ruby, whose reputation for granite-like financial integrity had preceded him, would expose their flight pay loss habits to the rank-and-file AAL pilot. By the time Roy Dooley, Breezy Wynne, and others had mounted a campaign to acquaint the rank-and-file AAL pilots with their leaders’ pe­culiar flight pay loss habits, the situation was so ripe with charges, counter­charges, and lawsuits that nobody believed them.

On Feb. 5–7, 1963, the Executive Board met in emergency session in Chicago to endorse Ruby’s position, to denounce the AAL leadership group, and to advise AAL management formally that they “are not the bargaining representative of the American pilots.” Nick O’Connell and other members of the AAL group were present at the meeting. It was the last time AAL lead­ers and ALPA leaders met formally. Kay McMurray, Ruby’s executive assist­ant, came to the February 21 negotiation between the AAL dissidents and management in New York. McMurray informed the gathering that they were in violation of the law and then left the room.

On March 1, 1963, ALPA filed suit against AAL, the AAL negotiating committee, and Nick O’Connell personally, alleging that there had been “influ­ence and coercion by the company in the choice by pilots of their repre­sentatives” in violation of law. On April 26, 1963, O’Connell and all other members of the AAL negotiating committee were expelled from ALPA (with the exception of Harold Miller, who had resigned from the commit­tee in February).

In response, the AAL dissidents announced formation of APA and petitioned the National Mediation Board (NMB) for a representative election. For the next two months, the dissidents waged a fierce campaign against ALPA among the rank and file, alleging misdeeds that the committee headed by Harold Miller found impossible to counter effectively. The re­sults were predictable: in June 1963, NMB reported that 84 percent of AAL’s 1,571 pilots had authorized APA as their bargaining agent.

The overwhelming majority that the dissidents secured from AAL pilots was probably decisive in the legal proceedings. The U.S. district court of Judge Inzer B. Wyatt found against ALPA in August 1963. There was nothing for ALPA to do but appoint “trustee councils” at AAL to look after the interests of the 236 anti-APA pilots at AAL. Subsequently, the ALPA die-hards were permitted “apprentice” status and retained on the roster. Many of them eventually drifted into APA, until finally only a dozen or so remained.

Among the loyalists who played prominent roles in trying to stop the split were Carl Rubio, A. M. “Breezy” Wynne, Roy Dooley, Tom Latta, Ted Sorenson, E. S. “Pye” Swanson, Jim Jewell, George Eckhardt, Arlin V. “Al” Read, John J. O’Connell, Stan Neilsen, Evan W. Chatfield, Sheldon E. “Ed” Pangburn, Frank A. “Doc” Spencer, Roy Patterson, Charles Doudt, Fred Johnson, Bob McDaniels, Lloyd J. Wade, H. E. “Doc” Merrill, and S. V. Ballard. In addi­tion, a number of old-timers like Albert E. “Prince” Hamer, Hamilton C. Smith, Walt Braznell, J. F. Bledsoe, Wiley Drummond, and H. G. Robinson, who had been in management most of their careers, were known to op­pose the split. Eventually, many of the loyalists found it necessary, both for protection and to establish a sense of community, to join APA. But for the most part, these marriages were not of the heart.

“Today’s AAL pilot typically wasn’t even hired yet when the split happened,” says Carl Rubio. “They take as a kind of ‘received wisdom’ that ALPA never did anything for the American pilots. From time to time I would be ostracized, accused of allowing APA to carry me. I’d just get out my ALPA card and say, ‘ALPA is carrying APA.’ APA really has had no impact at all na­tionally. During Operation Accordion, when they tried to shrink the size of oceanic airlines to Europe, ALPA stepped in and stopped what was going to be a serious safety violation. I’d point this out to the APA types, and they’d say, ‘What good is that to us? We don’t fly to Europe.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, but how about your wives and kids? Do they ever fly to Europe?’”

By late 1963, many ALPA members were heartily sick of the AAL group. Capt. E. R. Epperson of Delta expressed this feeling when he wrote to Charley Ruby: “Let them go. Hell, we don’t need that bunch of patsies. Concentrate on ALPA. They will learn.”

But Charley Ruby, like most ALPA members, felt the average AAL pilot should not be punished for the sins of his leaders. “There is a sizable ele­ment of American pilots who do not wish to leave ALPA,” Ruby replied to Epperson. “We cannot in conscience abandon them.”

In the aftermath of the split, the President’s Department of ALPA functioned as the MEC for the dues-paying ALPA members still at AAL, and per­mitted a special delegation of loyalists (headed by former Master Chair­man John O’Connell) to attend the 1964 convention. A number of lingering problems, such as the disposition of the substantial prop­erty—typewriters, office equipment, and the like—remained to be settled. ALPA’s Executive Committee, on Aug. 24, 1963, established ALPA’s policy to­ward AAL that persists to this day. ALPA resolved to stick by its loyal AAL members “to hire outside legal counsel to protect their representational rights as long as there are members requesting such services on American.”

This conciliatory policy toward the defecting AAL pilots reflected the views of most ALPA members. The old-timers had not forgotten the contributions of the AAL group. As Master Chairman L. B. Gordon of Trans Texas (later Texas International) wrote to Ruby: “At a time when it appeared we had no one else to turn to and were about to be scabbed, the American pilots made it known in no uncertain terms that they intended to back us all the way.” Gordon urged Ruby to “keep the doors open” for the AAL group.

“I still entertain hopes that eventually the American pilot group will become aware of the overall problems pilots face,” replied Ruby to Gordon. “Pilot objectives are the same, regardless of the airline, and I am optimistic that the American pilots will one day see fit to return to full ALPA membership.”

For labor historians, ALPA is a stunt done with mirrors. In the face of an almost constant oversupply of pilots, ALPA has somehow managed to protect the minority of pilots with airline jobs from the “iron law of wages.” The old guys, the first generation of professional airline pilots, made ALPA’s living denial of the iron law by careful application of the difficult arts of conciliation and compromise. Their fundamental goal was always unity across company lines. Dave Behncke never tired of preaching this gospel. The second generation of professional airline pilots, those who came to maturity around 1963, somehow forgot this fundamental lesson, perhaps because they have never been exposed to the predatory personnel poli­cies that made life so difficult for their predecessors. The old guys knew that without the strength professional airline pilots derived from each other, they would all stand naked before their enemies.

In the brave new world of deregulation, that’s a lesson worth pondering.

“APA has never been tested,” says Tom Latta. “If the company ever decides to bite them, they’ll go down. All that’s kept the American pilots afloat so far is that there’s an ALPA to go back to. ALPA’s still there, still setting the pace for the industry.”

If the past is truly prologue, then perhaps it is time for the AAL pilot group to come home.        

To Chapter 23

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