Call On Management To "Do The Right Thing"
As pilot contract negotiations
between American Eagle management and its pilots, represented by
the ALPA resumed Monday, frustrated pilots called 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
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
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
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,"