This is the fifth installment in a series of posts designed to explain the structure and function of your union. Knowing how your union works and who to contact when you have questions or issues you want addressed will help you make the most of your career. Today we’re looking at the documents that govern how we operate.
ALPA National represents the interests of a diverse membership with several pilot groups and many different ideas, goals and priorities. To ensure cohesive operations across and within each pilot group, a framework of governing documents outlines responsibilities, obligations, standards, roles and rules. There are both Association-wide and “local level” governing documents specific to the Delta MEC. Like the governing documents of the nation, our guiding documents can evolve over time to better meet the membership’s needs. Understanding the purpose and general context of this framework allows pilots to better understand the work of their union.
The Constitution and By-Laws (C&BL)
This document is similar to the US Constitution in that it defines the purpose, objectives and scope of the Association (ALPA National). The first three objectives we should all be familiar with, at least intuitively:
- To provide representation for all members of the airline piloting profession; to promote the interests of that profession; and to safeguard the rights, individually and collectively, of its members.
- To safeguard, with ceaseless vigilance, the safety of scheduled air transportation in recognition of the high degree of public trust, confidence, and responsibility placed on the members.
- To further scheduling with safety in any practical manner.
There are 16 objectives, each as timeless as the first three.
The C&BL goes on to define who is a member, who can vote and how often representatives are to meet. There is scarcely an administrative topic that escapes direction. Proxy votes, withdrawal of service and dues are all described, as is the basic structure of representation.
While daunting and at times monotonous, the C&BL should in fact be a source of reassurance to ALPA pilots. The framework provided by the rules ensures that the Association’s efforts are the result of time-tested processes and the will of the membership, not the whim of a few representatives. Changes to the C&BL can only be done by the Board of Directors which meets every two years and consists of the status reps from every member airline. You can find the full ALPA C&BL on alpa.org.
The Administrative Manual, an Association-level document, takes the general directions of the constitution and creates a more specific roadmap. For example, the C&BL identifies who is responsible for the Association’s financial resources, but the specific and detailed financial policies are described in the Administrative Manual.
The Administrative Manual mostly describes our processes – the ways we go about things like collective bargaining, voting, integrating seniority lists and communicating with our members. In some cases (especially in the areas of aviation safety and security), the Administrative Manual also contains substantive policy positions on important issues. If you’ve ever heard someone speaking of those topics and proclaim what “ALPA policy” is, they are probably referring the Administrative Manual.
Like other ALPA guidance, the manual is a “living document” and changes as needed to reflect lessons learned or newly established requirements. The Executive Board, which consists of the chairman of each MEC, can make changes when they meet. You can find the full ALPA Administrative Manual on alpa.org.
Delta MEC Policy Manual
The ALPA Constitution and By-Laws and Administrative Manual leave a lot of room for each MEC to make its own policies to address its own circumstances. MEC policies usually cover things like committee responsibilities, specific rules for MEC meetings, the process for selecting MEC committee members and officers, and the processes for communicating with management, the public and our members.
The Delta MEC Policy Manual is reviewed at least every five years, and is currently undergoing a review. However, the Policy Manual may be amended or revised more frequently to account for changes to other governing documents. Amendments to the Policy Manual require a two-thirds majority vote at an MEC meeting. You can find the full Delta MEC Policy Manual on alpa.org/dal.
Robert’s Rules of Order
When your ALPA representatives convene, any rule that isn’t covered by the C&BL, the Administrative Manual or the Delta MEC Policy Manual is governed by Robert’s Rules of Order. Henry Robert was an army engineer who adapted the rules and practices of the US Congress to suit the needs of non-legislative bodies. His first manual was published in 1876, and it is now in its eleventh edition. These protocols are so widely used that you can even get “Robert’s Rules for Dummies” on Amazon. The goal of the work is “to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.” You can learn more about MEC Meetings conduct business using Robert’s Rules of Order in the Understanding Your Union: MEC Meetings article.