March 25 2019 Blog

Chairman’s Update to Atlas Pilots – March 25

March 25, 2019

Fellow Atlas Crew Members,

As you all saw on Friday, Atlas management, through Senior Vice President of Flight Operations Jeff Carlson, issued a public statement of regret relating to the heinous and despicable actions that this management took last year against Captain Kris Lang and the union. Although Carlson does not use the word “apology,” and instead uses the word “regret,” his “welcome back” letter to the pilots and many others employed by Atlas is unprecedented, and comes almost simultaneously with last Friday’s settlement of the lawsuit that the union and Captain Lang filed in February for violations of the Railway Labor Act and for illegally retaliating against Captain Lang. The union and Captain Lang called them out for breaking the law by filing a lawsuit against Atlas Air, Inc. and Polar Air Cargo Worldwide Inc.  While Captain Carlson’s statement of regret is appreciated, we believe Lang’s termination was also attributable to Carlson’s boss, John Dietrich, and would have liked to have seen this wrong corrected with an equally heartfelt statement of regret from him as well.

As explained and stated in in the Complaint against Atlas and Polar, Atlas illegally fired Captain Lang from his instructor’s position because he had the courage to testify under oath on behalf of his fellow pilots in the federal court injunction hearing.  Captain Lang powerfully and effectively refuted management’s lies accusing the pilots of faking fatigue calls to leverage collective bargaining negotiations. While the court did issue an injunction against the union on account of certain other alleged actions, and that injunction is pending on appeal, the court denied the injunction with respect to management’s fatigue claims.   

Let me tell you how all this apparently went down.  As again explained and stated in the Complaint, our management group underhandedly waited a brief period of time after the court hearing in the hope that their actions would not be seen for what they were.  Several months after his testimony, Captain Lang was given a warning by Director of Training Scott Anderson. At that meeting Anderson refused to give Kris a reason for the warning or even respond when he was asked to explain what Kris was doing wrong so he could correct it.  After all, the assumption is that the Training Center is a place for teaching and correcting mistakes. The Training Center should never be a place for cronyism, retribution and rewarding bad behavior, as Carlson has used in many cases. A few weeks later, Captain Lang was summarily removed from his instructor position by Anderson and the only reason given was that this order came from up above.

You can read all about this in the links to the complaint provided here for your reference:

When I was informed of this act I was incensed by this new low. I was amazed that the company would flirt with intimidation tactics and tampering with a federal court witness in front of a federal judge. The union immediately began working on every legal means possible to rectify this wrong. There would be no stone unturned nor any legal avenue we would not pursue to right the terrible wrong done to Kris. At the same time, the union and Captain Lang understood that management was not just retaliating against Captain Lang but also sending a clear message to all of its employees that it would fire anyone who spoke up against it and its senior executives. In legal terms, the company and its executives illegally sought to “chill” all of our protected First Amendment and other legal rights. We could not – and will not – ever let that happened. The union and Captain Lang filed a complaint in the federal court in Washington D.C. as a case related to the injunction. That meant that the same judge who Captain Lang testified in front of during the injunction case and who had credited Captain Lang’s testimony of management was assigned to the case. In the complaint, the union explained that that Captain Lang was fired in retaliation for having testified against management, and that the company’s senior management, who were in the courtroom when he testified, were blind with anger. The complaint states:

  1.    In September, 2018, Defendants’ training director, Scott Anderson, sent Captain Lang an email requesting that he meet with Anderson on September 17, 2018 after he had finished taking his scheduled recurrent training class. At that meeting, Anderson told Captain Lang, “you know what’s coming.” Indeed, Captain Lang did not know “what was coming,” and asked Anderson what he meant. Anderson then told Captain Lang that he was being removed as a CTI effective October 1, 2018. Captain Lang twice asked Anderson why he was being fired as a CTI, but Anderson refused to give him any reasons. Anderson did state, however, that the directive to remove him had come from “higher up.” Inasmuch as Anderson is a senior manager and director of Defendants’ training facility, his reference to “higher ups” could only mean Senior Vice President of Flight Operations Captain Jeffrey Carlson and senior executives, including William Flynn and John Dietrich. Flynn, Dietrich and Carlson all attended the three-day injunction hearing in this Court at which Captain Lang had testified against Defendants and resoundingly refuted the sworn testimony of Captain Carlson and the Defendant’s admittedly false claims. Well over fifty pilots employed by Defendants also attended the hearings, as did reporters from several news services.
  2.    Defendants’ discharge of Captain Lang from the CTI position was made for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons, motivated by an intent to punish Captain Lang for testifying against Defendants in the preliminary injunction hearing. Captain Lang’s testimony, along with his and his fellow pilots’ declarations, had the effect of subjecting Captain Carlson and the Company’s senior executives to open ridicule by laying bare their mendacity in that proceeding. As a result, the company’s management has incurred grievous loss of respect by Defendants’ pilots, whom continue to doubt their veracity.
  3.    Defendants’ discharge of Captain Lang was also made to chill Captain Lang and the Defendants’ other Union-represented pilots from testifying for or otherwise engaging in support of the Union with respect to its representative activities and functions.
  4.    Defendants’ discharge of Captain Lang was also made to intimidate and coerce Plaintiffs and Defendants’ pilots to acquiesce to Defendants’ bargaining demands in their ongoing labor dispute with the Union regarding the amendment of the collective bargaining agreement between the Defendants and the Union.
  5.    Defendants’ conduct, as evidenced by their activities described in this Complaint, is motivated by anti-union animus, and is interfering with, influencing with, and coercing the employees’ choice of representatives for the purpose of weakening the union as an institution. The aforementioned unlawful conduct is part of a predetermined, improper anti-union campaign designed and undertaken to strike a fundamental blow to the Union, its efforts in securing a favorable contract for its members, and the collective bargaining process itself.

With Carlson’s letter and his statement of regret, you can see we were successful in protecting Captain Lang’s legal rights, the union, all the Atlas pilots and, perhaps, even all the Atlas employees.

A settlement agreement was reached Friday, March 22, 2019. This settlement is confidential with all parties agreeing that the specifics of the agreement will remain confidential except to Kris and his family and the union leadership. Thus we will not discuss the specifics. Under the settlement we can say, however, that: “The matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties.” Needless to say, the plaintiffs, Captain Lang and the union would have never have settled unless the terms vindicated Captain Lang’s and all of our legal rights. I can again state, therefore, that “The matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties.”

Strong unions are made up of courageous people that are willing to stand up to tyranny, injustice and who stand for more than just themselves. These people have integrity, ethics and selflessness to do things for their fellow members. Captain Kris Lang is a shining example of this type of person. There is not a single person in upper management that can hold a candle to Kris or even comes close as a person or an employee of Atlas Air. I hope all of you will thank Kris when you see him on the line or at the training center.

This union is committed to preventing any sort of intimidation by this Lorenzo-style management. No one can ignore or excuse the heinous actions taken against Captain Lang. Such actions prove what I have said many times about this being one of the worst management groups in the industry. Though they may attempt to intimidate crew members from testifying in court or at an arbitration, they will fail, because pilots are a take charge group and not easily intimidated; we don’t back down when confronted, especially by a management group like this. I trust you will all follow Kris’ example, for it is this kind of example that makes us stronger. Today we are much, much stronger as a group because of Kris’ ethics and courage and because the union “ALWAYS” has your back.

Now, more than ever, is the time to be “ALL-IN”.

Bob Kirchner

Atlas Executive Council Chairman

APA Teamsters Local 1224