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© 2007-11, William Swelbar.

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« “Capital Is Global, Labor Is Local” »

The title is not my words but rather those of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA). On Tuesday of this week, I sat on a panel with Captain Paul Rice of IFALPA to discuss consolidation at the ACI World Conference in Boston. Captain Rice is a most articulate and passionate speaker when it comes to issues important to labor.

As our panel progressed in its discussion, I challenged Captain Rice on his use of his phrase describing events occurring in the industry on consolidation. My basic assertion was: that labor is capital and its flow is being hindered by seniority and other fundamental union rules that probably will not serve tomorrow's work force as currently designed. Restrictions on the flow of capital, or anything, are good for no one. The Boston Beacon reported on our panel.

Yesterday’s Northwest – Delta Shareholder Vote

There is no event currently taking place that highlights the “Labor is Local” mantra more than the pending Northwest - Delta merger. Susan Carey of the Wall Street Journal writes: Northwest's Unions Face Tough Reception at Delta. This comes on the heels of the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA testifying before Congress earlier this week that the rules for union elections at airlines need to be altered. Ah, we are again back to that contemporary law that governs airline labor relations: the Railway Labor Act of 1926 as amended in 1936.

What is interesting to me is that unions negotiate hard to have Sections 3 and 13 of the Allegheny-Mohawk Labor Protective Provisions in their contracts. In February of this year, I wrote a piece entitled: F + E = LPP^DL: Fairness and Equity; Seniority Integration; Union Representation; and Lee Moak Again. Delta had offered these protections to its employees ahead of the announcement of a deal, and they did not have to bargain for it.

There will almost certainly be elections among the IAM and AFA-CWA work forces but now union leaders are concerned that, under NMB rules, a ballot sent to an employee that is not returned is counted as a no vote therefore making a representation election most difficult to win. Just as it has been for years and years.

But like any election, isn’t it up to the union to convince potential new members that being represented by a collective bargaining representative is better than not being represented at all? So, if labor is going to ask that we review only Sections of the Railway Labor Act that serves their local interests only, I say no. If labor is going to ask that an Act of Congress that is more than 70 years old be amended to address issues and concerns that prevent the US airline industry from fully participating in global capital flows because current labor capital says no, then I say yes.

If nothing else, the two mature airline industries in the US and Europe should be able to find common ground that separate continental seniority lists could provide.

Reader Comments (2)

Hey Bill, sounds like that ACI Conference was a great one. Are those types of events open to the general public? I agree that the future is going to be about global brands/alliances. How about a brand specific fleet, marketing, labor groups and seniority lists instead of limiting by continents? Cathay Pacific has a global presence with crews from every continent(except S. America) on the same seniority list and work rules.

09.27.2008 | Unregistered Commenterflyby519

Hey Flyby

I like your idea much better.

I guess I am the one caught up on finding an interim step to what will ultimately be global brands and all things global.

Much of my thinking is influenced by labor's stance against changing the ownership laws because of the numerous labor laws that could potentially lead to a whipsaw approach from their perspective.

As I have written in a number of recent posts, I just do not think the current construct works for the workers that will comprise the industry in 10 years. So I find myself stuck thinking about protecting those here now, and create something very new and different for those that work in the industry tomorrow.

My continental idea assumed that common ground might be easier to find in the US/North America and Europe because of the maturity of the respective marketplaces.

But maybe Cathay should be the model. If nothing else, we need to begin addressing this sense that labor is local now.

Thanks for writing.

09.27.2008 | Unregistered CommenterSwelbar

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