March 12 2019 Blog

Chairman’s Update – March 12, 2019

Over the past few weeks we have all been focused on the tragic accident and loss of life relating to GTI 3591.  As we mentioned last week, the union has ordered commemorative pins as a tribute to our departed fellow pilots and they should be arriving in the 4-6 weeks.

That being said, there is a lot of other news that I must update you on.

On February 27, the Atlas/Southern CBA Framework Agreement was signed by all parties.

You can view a copy of the newly signed Framework Agreement through the following link:

This is a very loose and flexible document on which Atlas and Southern insisted.  It basically provides for a means for both the Atlas pilots and the Southern pilots to negotiate jointly toward a joint CBA while we await decisions from the federal court of appeals in New York and the arbitrators in the Atlas and Southern “merger” arbitrations.  As we have discussed many times over the last nearly three years, the companies insist on forcing the Atlas and Southern pilots to abandon their RLA Section 6 bargaining rights and instead amalgamate the current Atlas and Southern contracts into a single contract through interest arbitration.  The union has taken the position that it and the pilots are within their lawful rights to amend the Atlas and Southern contracts pursuant to the RLA bargaining procedures, not through interest arbitration. While preserving our legal positions on this matter, the Framework Agreement allows for a voluntary negotiation process that would enable the parties to reach a joint collective bargaining agreement by direct negotiation, rather than NMB mediation or interest arbitration. If the framework negotiations are unsuccessful, then we await the rulings from the two arbitrators and the court proceedings mentioned above.  As you all know all too well, John Dietrich, AAWW, Atlas Air and Southern Air have been fixated on forcing an interest arbitration on the union and the Atlas and Southern pilots. Dietrich and his executive colleagues expect to repeat history by securing an interest arbitration award like they did in 2011, an award that imposed the current, substandard Atlas/Polar contract under which the Atlas pilots are suffering.

Unable to even live up to agreements that they propose, so far, as most of you know, these framework agreements have fallen flat.  The company has violated every provision of the documents that they have previously signed and in many cases written.

The company has provided the following dates for negotiations under the current framework agreement:

March 12-15 in Washington, DC.

Of course, both the Atlas and Southern Negotiating teams will be there beginning today.  We will update you on the progress of these meetings as we are able.

Not much has changed at Atlas since senior company executives promised me “strict CBA compliance” in October of 2018. Excessive contract abuses are leading to record numbers of grievances, all while management continues to file frivolous Section 19s, seemingly designed to intimidate and put crew members under their thumb.  Scheduling continues to cut special “under the table” deals with crew members to circumvent our CBA, and is also taking advantage of new pilots who do not yet know the terms of their CBA. And the list of scheduling abuses goes on and on. In addition, extreme and thoughtless cost cutting is negatively affecting catering and hotels to a degree that is affecting our pilots’ well-being.  This is nothing new to those of you who have worked here for any length of time; sadly, many have fallen into the trap of thinking that what happens here is normal treatment in the airline industry. I can assure you it is not. The abuses we are all experiencing here are only being perpetrated by a few underhanded outlier management groups in the industry, led of course by the current regime here at Atlas and Southern.  You see cutting costs at Atlas and Southern is the #1 mission and nothing else even comes close in the corporate executives’ priorities. I ask you all to study and learn the CBA. Weak as it is, it still provides protections against outrageous abuses. We must continue to stand up to the hostility and shoddy treatment that we all continue to face out there on the line every day and we can only do that if we know what the CBA says and doesn’t say, what it protects and what it doesn’t protect, where it protects and how it provides for those protections.  Remember, the union is standing by to back you every step of the way. The union leadership from the Executive Board to the EXCO to the Atlas Stewards are here to assist you and to defend your contractual rights.

Unfortunately, last week we were forced to file another federal lawsuit against Atlas and Polar, this time for safety-related reasons that gave rise to RLA status quo violations.  We do not relish filing federal lawsuits, but this is the arena we have been thrust into due to management’s ultra-legalistic stance and unwillingness to work cooperatively. As you all know by now, Atlas and Polar unilaterally, without even any notice or consultation from the union, instituted a forced maintenance run-up requirement on us.  This is a dramatic change in the “status quo” at Atlas and affects the safety of all of us. The “status quo” is mandated by the RLA during Section 6 negotiations. We will keep you updated as to the progress of this lawsuit.

With regard to the company’s steadfast goal of imposing a forced arbitration on the crew members of both the Southern and Atlas, the arbitration briefs have been filed, are in the hands of two highly-experienced and reputable arbitrators, and are now pending decisions.  There are no more requirements or steps left in this long and arduous “process.” A “process” that Atlas COO John Dietrich has persistently insisted is the “fastest way” to a new CBA. Of course, by now everyone has realized this is a totally false assertion, as the union had offered both Atlas and Southern solutions that would have allowed for a fairly negotiated single contract that is in line with existing market conditions and which we are confident would have been ratified by the pilots many months ago.  Dietrich and his executive colleagues have always been afraid of negotiating with the union and the pilots and therefore have sacrificed airline stability and a wealth of economic opportunities all in order to avoid such negotiations and to instead cheat the union and the pilots of their legal rights. We anticipate that it will take several more months before we get rulings from these arbitration panels, however let me remind you there are no time limits short or long on this company-forced “process”.

Also, in addition, as you all know, we were in our opinion wrongly and unjustly forced to engage in these arbitrations in the first place by the federal district court judge in New York.  While that judge has since left the court to pursue private industry opportunities, we have appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals. Both the union and the companies have fully briefed the case and we anticipate that the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the case at the end of April.  Once the arguments are completed, the Court of Appeals will issue a decision as to whether the district court should have ordered the arbitration in the first place or whether it should have dismissed the companies’ case, thereby enabling the companies and the union to continue their RLA Section 6 negotiations without further legal distraction or shenanigans from this management.

In closing let me point out that I have commended many of our committees in these updates and although there are still a few committees that the ExCo is working on revamping, the last couple of weeks have shined a bright spotlight on how our committees perform.  I am happy to report that most of our committees are exceeding their functionality and the goals that have been set for them. I want to commend all of our union workers for their dedication, sacrifice and the high standards they are achieving. Our union has never been more efficient and stronger and it is the dedication and sacrifices of these individuals that has gotten us here and will make us even stronger into the future.  They set a shining example of solidarity and strength for all of us.

As always stay “ALL-IN”.


Bob Kirchner

Atlas Executive Council Chairman

APA Teamsters Local 1224


Chairman’s Update – April 5th, 2019


Apparently my description of the events leading to the settlement of the lawsuit that we filed in US Federal Court in Washington, DC that was included in the Chairman’s Update on Monday, March 25, struck a nerve.  It appears the company wanted this whole ugly incident painted quite differently to all of you.

Here is what has transpired since I sent the original Chairman’s Message.  On Wednesday, March 27, our Chief Legal Counsel Mr. Ed Gleason received a letter from the company’s high-priced, anti-union law firm (O’Melveny & Myers) in Washington, DC.  In the letter, the company’s attorney, on behalf of the company, objected to our description on what led up to the Settlement Agreement.

Their objections are as follows:

First, they are apparently upset that I characterized Carlson’s letter as an “apology”.  They prefer that we call it a “letter of regret”, OK so be it. I do think an honest apology would have been better for their image with the employees of Atlas Air.  Again, Atlas/Polar steadfastly cling to the mantra that management never apologizes.

The second point the company wants to make is that it was not breaking the law by its actions.  The company can cling to that thought, no matter how warped it may be, but the union strongly disagrees with this attempt to ignore reality.

Thirdly, the company points out that it was not a court “ruling”, but in the same breath acknowledges that the court accepted the Settlement.  Technically, calling the court-approved settlement a “ruling” was not exactly correct in legal jargon. So, let’s call it more correctly a court-approved settlement.

The company’s fourth objection is that Dietrich should never be asked to issue an “apology” or “statement of regret”.  Dietrich and his lawyers are claiming he had nothing to do with the retaliatory action that was taken against Captain Lang, the Teamsters and the Atlas Air crew members.  We don’t think that is true.

Finally, the company is incensed that the union would claim any sort of vindication in righting this terrible wrong.  This anti-union management must now pretend that they did nothing wrong. We disagree.

In the interest of the sensitivities of a few managers, we are publishing a revised Chairman’s Message.  That revised message is included below.

In closing, it appears the company thought it would come out with a brief letter from Carlson and sweep this majestic blunder “under the rug.”  Well, management can hide in a pretend world in Purchase, NY, but the fact that the company entered into the Settlement and the fact that Carlson sent his letter to the pilots last Friday, March 22, speak for themselves.  While we will not speak about the specifics of the Settlement Agreement, we will discuss this case in general terms as much as we like to warn all crew members about management’s fondness for trying to punish people who disagree with them and to let all crew members know that the union will never acquiesce to witness intimidation, any intimidation whatsoever or any attempt to “chill” our pilot group from standing up for itself and for crew members to stand up for themselves and each other.  Rest assured, the union will never allow this to happen again at any level without the strongest of responses.

Enjoy rereading the revised Chairman’s Update.


Bob Kirchner

Atlas Executive Council Chairman