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Monday, November 28, 2016

Overnight Success

Previously, I discussed the financial difficulties my family and I were dealing with during the early years at UPS.  The pilots had been represented by the Teamsters originally, but a group of leaders among the pilots had broken off from them and formed their own union at great risk.  It's a long, boring and convoluted story, but the unions that represent airline employees fall under the Railway Labor Act.  It was created originally to prevent disruption of the nation's commerce by a railroad strike.  Under the RLA, there is no deadline at which the contract must be settled or the workers go on strike.  There is an amendable date, the employees continue working and eventually an agreement is reached or there is a complex process which may eventually lead to a strike.  Long story short, the government is the dealer and the company holds most of the high cards.

When the original contract between UPS and the Teamsters reached its amendable date, the new union, the Independent Pilots Association was the bargaining agent for the pilots.  I believed that historically, these negotiations only lasted a little more than a year after the amendable date.  This one seemed to drag on for nearly a year.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had been going into deeper and deeper credit card debt every month just to support my family.  There was an expectation that we would get a decent raise and move into the same ballpark as the major airlines, or at least into the neighborhood in which the ballpark was located.  We also expected it would not take more than the average time for such negotiations.

Another thing I mention earlier is all the stories I was being told by other pilots about the draconian and stupid things UPS was doing to the crew members.  Occasionally, I would say that I did not disbelieve any of that, but I always tried to give anyone a free first shot.  I did not like to form solid opinions about people based on stories I had been told.  This was especially true for a company where I hoped to work for the next couple decades.

With all my issues, getting deeper and deeper into debt and knowing that relief was just a contract away,  I was really starting to get pissed at UPS for not making a deal.  I considered this to be their free shot and was now onboard with the rest of the folks who had been there before me.  

Finally, the union announced a tentative agreement.  It was not as good as the major airlines, but I would now be making more annually than I had ever made before.  The best part was that we would be paid retroactively for the increase in pay back to the amendable date, nearly 2 years before.  I used the after tax money as a down payment on a house.  We bought a nice house that needed some work.  Even with that, it was probably a little bit of a stretch, but we are still living in that house and my income, over the years, was able to grow into it and beyond.

We had accumulated about $10,000 in credit card debt.  It felt like a million to me.  The mother of a friend was looking for a place to invest money from an investment that had just matured and loaned me the 10 grand at 8% simple interest.  This was a good deal for both of us at the time.  I paid it off as quickly as I could.

I had taken my first flight lesson in the autumn of 1968, in a Cessna 150, at Zelionople Pennsylvania, with the goal of getting an airline job, earning what airline pilots earn.  Here we were, 23 years later.  Although I had been flying for airlines for 9 years, I was only now near the threshold of achieving that goal late in 1991.  I was still about 4 years from actually crossing the threshold, but I could see it from here.

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