Sunday, October 18, 2009


There's a dirty little secret professional pilots probably don't want the public to know. They're petty, vindictive bitches. Well, not all. But enough to warrant a calling out. So, I'm calling 'em out.
Pilots at most airlines are unionized. And you don't have a choice but to join the union. Oh, sure, dig through enough law books; hire your own lawyer; espouse your right to work, and you could get away with not paying dues. But believe me, you're not getting away with anything. You want problems? Kick and scream. Want a peaceful existence? Join the union.

Unionized workers, no matter the industry, are slaves to conformity. They do not tolerate indivdualism and rally to the cause of the mindless drone. To that end, there exists a 'burn it down' mentality, wherein the union believes if it can be successful in hurting the company that signs its member's paychecks, they will emerge victorious in the eternal struggle against 'the man.'

(Please visualize air quotes where you see real quotes above, for whilst I believe air quotes to be quite silly, I also believe the same of unions.)

Well, 'the man' sometimes fights back. Contract negotiations can be especially charged. Occasionally labor groups go on strike and pilots are no different. But woe be the fool who dares cross a picket line. And pilots actually form picket lines. I grew up in the motor city, where auto workers could pose a nasty threat to anyone who didn't support their cause. But, their organization consisted of hanging around parking lots in mobs, waving broken bottles and hurling foul language. Pilots actually walk a single file line looking rather ridiculous with their poster boards and hats.

Even so, people have crossed the lines. And those people end up on a scab list, of pilots now, or in the past, flying for airlines, but known to have contributed to union busting. I, as you might be able to tell, am not the biggest fan of unions, especially the one currently using 2.5% of my pay to throw weekly beer guzzling events in the name of solidarity. I believe someone might have any number of reasons for risking, not just career suicide, and, in some cases, physical harm, to earn a living.

Most of my union brethryn disagree. They hold fast to the belief that management's sole reason for existence is to ruin the lives of its employees. Unfortunately, on occassion, this belief has been confirmed. There are a couple of airlines out there that are, in fact, non-union. A couple of companies have started alter ego airlines, and offered their most junior and lowest paid pilots the chance to work at the new airline as captains, something they would have to wait years for if they stayed where they were. The catch: they will earn less as captains at the new airline, than at their current airline, in essence brining down the value of the captain position industry wide and saving money for the airlines.

Some people took the offer, and found themselves blacklisted. Others, through circumstance, ended up at these airlines because they simply couldn't get a job elsewhere. Believe me, these people had no motivation other than to pay their bills.

Today, one of these pitiable souls had the misfortune of needing a free ride on my airplane. Usually no problem. We give each other free rides all the time. It makes it easier to live where we want even as the airlines open and close our bases on a whim. Unfortunately the captain I was working with today was one of those union grudge holders. I had only met him about five minutes earlier, so consider this a first impression.

When the captain asked who the freeloader worked for. His answer: UnionBustingAir. Oh boy. Uncomfortable hesitation followed. The captain screwed up his face in disgust and for a moment I thought he would kick this poor guy off the plane. (As captain, he would have been within his rights.)

What followed instead was a lecture about the evils this guy was doing to the industry. Why would he go work there? How could he live with himself? Did he consider the effect on his fellow pilots? I stayed out of it, but was cordial to the guy. What's worse is there were no seats in the passenger cabin, so this poor schlep had to sit in the cockpit with us for three hours. I must applaud him. No doubt he deals with this every time he goes to or from work. He dealt with it the best way possible. He slept.

When he was awake, however, he spent his time apologizing. He'd been furloughed from a 'respectable' airline. He couldn't find a job anywhere else and had caved in desperation. He was, he said, on his way to give his two week notice. He'd found a job as a corporate pilot. Even better for him. No more union BS.

I offered my sympathies when the captain left to use the restroom. As I said, I was cordial to the guy, doing my best to make him feel welcome and to let him know, I am not a dick.

But the captain was a dick, and couldn't even control his dick. I went into the restroom immediately after him, and he'd been fast. So fast, in fact, he hadn't bothered to lift the seat. Or aim. Thanks to swine flu I'm always armed with hand sanitizer.

As he left, the jumpseater thanked us. I shook his hand and wished him luck. He then extended his hand to the captain, who grumbled something nasty without looking up or shaking hands. After the guy was gone, the captain said to me, "I didn't meant to be a dick to the guy, but..." Which is what made his being a dick all the more ironic. Much like a person starting a sentence with, "I'm not a racist but..." I stopped listening.

I had hoped to extol the virtues of humanity on the way back, but lectures aren't my thing. The best I could do was a display of my superior avitating. Unfortunately I blew the landing but made up for it by nearly running him over in the parking lot. I didn't mean to almost kill him, but...

1 comment:

Erica said...

Interesting. Never would have known any of that. I always have sanitizer too :)