Trans States Pilots Rally Against the Rat

In an expression of frustration over protracted negotiations and in recognition of the first anniversary of the amendable date of their contract, Trans States Airlines pilots and pilots from other ALPA and non-ALPA pilot groups gathered in St. Louis on August 10 to rally against the rat—Trans States management.

Watch video footage of the rally:
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Trans States pilots and management have been negotiating for a new contract since February 2006, including 8 months with a mediator from the National Mediation Board. Only six sections of the contract have been tentatively agreed to. Management has reneged on previously agreed-to language and has frequently provided proposals that are concessionary, even though the airline is making money.

Undaunted by the heat and humidity, the pilots from Trans States, supported by a 25-foot-tall inflatable rat and flightcrew members from Alaska, Atlantic Southeast, Comair, Continental, FedEx, Mesaba, and Shuttle America, listened to ALPA leaders express their dismay over TSA management’s inability to negotiate a new contract that recognizes the Trans States pilots’ sacrifice and dedication during the past 7 years, since their last contract was signed. Like other pilots across the industry, Trans States pilots are underpaid and overworked, and Trans States’ attrition rate is skyrocketing. Two union leaders announced their resignations in August.

“A pilot shortage exists right now, and it stands to only get worse over time,” says the MEC chairman, Capt. Jason Ruszin. “Trans States pilots are not just going to majors. They are also making lateral moves to other regional and national airlines because of dissatisfaction here at Trans States. The executives here will soon have to face the reality that making significant improvements in our contract is not only in our best interest, but in theirs as well. So I say to Trans States management: If you want to fix this problem, the solution is easy—make Trans States a better place to work. Fix those problems that drive good, hard-working pilots away. Come to the negotiating table with a pen in hand. We’ll supply the rest.”

“You need to know that you are not alone,” stressed Capt. John Sluys, one of ALPA’s executive vice-presidents. “You are the foundation of Trans States Airlines. Management likes to think they are, but they aren’t. You are.”

Sluys told the crowd that ALPA national was there to help, and to do whatever it takes to “bring home a contract that you, the professional pilots of Trans States, have long earned. The ALPA toolbox is here to make your management realize the benefit of choosing the right path. Wouldn’t it be nice if management realized that it is cheaper for them to negotiate in good faith and compensate you in a fair manner than it is to pay and train a replacement?”

Capt. Tom Wychor, the MEC chairman for the Mesaba pilot group, continued the lambasting against Trans States management. “In my ten years as an MEC chairman, I have seen some disgusting, pathetic behavior. But the rat running this company takes the cake. He also takes your hard-earned money; he takes your future through GoJet. But most abhorrently, he took the jobs from five of your elected ALPA officers when he fired them for representing their brothers and sisters here at Trans States.”

ALPA’s president, Capt. John Prater, concluded the event with an overview of the airline industry and his week, representing ALPA at the AFL-CIO Conference in Chicago and presiding over ALPA’s Air Safety and Security Week in Washington, D.C.

He reminded the pilots that ALPA has been around for 76 years, and in that time managements have come and gone—but ALPA has remained rock-solid and steady. He said, “Trans States Chairman Hulas Kanoda needs to understand that to move forward, he must acknowledge and accept a central truth when dealing with us—the standards of the piloting profession must be rebuilt, and we are here to see that that happens at Trans States Airlines. You deserve nothing less.”