"The Railway Labor Act is over 70 years old. It was designed to ensure that all the parties involved in bargaining and other transportation industries kept the customer, the employees and the shareholders in mind. It's obvious that the model isn't working today and we have to find a new way.'' --- James Goodwin, CEO, UAL Corporation
Thus quoteth our CEO, James Goodwin, in a comment he gave to reporters at the Chicago Executives' Club on Wednesday. The Reuters news story also reported today that Goodwin made it clear to reporters that the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline labor negotiations, is antiquated and needs to be changed.
As you are aware, the Railway Labor Act controls how labor unions (like AFA and ALPA) can act before they go on strike. This would also include other job actions leading up to a strike, like CHAOS or work slowdowns.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how much a labor group can affect an airline's performance. The pilots' refusing to work overtime (which they had every single right on this planet to do) combined with terrible weather last summer created a nightmare for United's operations and employees---not to mention its customers.
The Reuters story continued with another quote from Goodwin: "As an industry and as a country, we have to find a new way to resolve labor issues in our industry collectively without spilling over to our customers and our shareholders." He also told reporters that there had been some preliminary conversations at the Air Transport Association (the trade group that represents the major U.S. airlines) about pushing for a change in legislation, but discussion of of exactly what those changes would be is premature.
I was on a trip the other day and worked with a flight attendant who had an excellent idea: James Goodwin should set up an 800 number and give a new message to employees every single Friday.
Are you listening WHQ?
With this telephone message employees, Goodwin can keep us informed of his specific actions, his accountability, and his goals/efforts during this period of UAL labor unrest. What he's doing now, like telling reporters at the Chicago Executives' Club this sort of news, can lead to employee alienation and/or can often be misconstrued. Now I don't know exactly how Goodwin intends to 'find a new way to resolve labor issues in our industry collectively', but it would be useful to hear it from him in a personal message to all of us.
During the 1930's, President Franklin D. Roosevelt often gave 'Fireside Chats' over the radio each week which were quite popular with the American public. In order to win back employee morale and support, Goodwin must address all employees, not just a few encounters with ESOP members, but a world-wide address system (like an toll-free phone number) that is accessible to all employees.
Then we can know exactly where he's going with all of this.