When FedEx first approached the ALPA Military Affairs Committee requesting our input on a Military Procedures handbook, I informed them that the publication of any document regarding interpretations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) would raise a tremendous amount of concern for us as pilots. As everyone knows, pilots are the only people who are smarter than lawyers when it comes to interpreting the intent of legal statutes. But please rest assure that nothing in the company’s current “Military Service Guidelines and Procedures” handbook can diminish or usurp your rights and protections afforded by USERRA. Period.
To understand why your Military Affairs Committee chose to endorse the document, let me start by defining the Military Affairs Committee. We do not enforce USERRA compliance; nor can we grieve any violations of USERRA as it is not a CBA-negotiated item. We serve merely as a liaison for our members. Our mission statement is this:
- Serve Reserve/Guard members as they navigate the complexities of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), while balancing family, Military Service, and FedEx employment.
- Connect members with local Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) representatives in order to comply with the intent and spirit of USERRA.
- Liaison with FedEx management to promote company compliance with USERRA
- Assist members in deployment prep and reemployment transition.
Please check with your peers who have contacted the Military Affairs Committee for first-hand accounts of the advice we give our members on responsible military service. FedEx pilots continually operate with the highest levels of integrity and honesty when serving in the military, and nothing in this handbook will change that.
Within the last two years, the company approached us regarding the publication of a “best practices” handbook to assist our military crewmembers in transitioning between military service and FedEx employment. Both United and Delta currently have robust Flight Operations Military Handbooks that are very similar to the current FedEx document and were extensively consulted by ALPA during discussions with FedEx management. Every airline is facing the challenge of manning its crew positions with increased operational demands on their military crewmembers. Our guiding principal was to use a “reasonable person” approach to Military Leave of Absence (MLA) while reviewing company proposals. Initial drafts of the company’s handbook were rejected by ALPA, mainly regarding two sticking points: (1) restriction of concurrent duty and (2) restriction of military service while in a sick status at FedEx.
Regarding concurrent duty, we felt that military members should be allowed to execute non-flight military duties while on concurrent FedEx duty. We informed management of our position, and after extensive review by the FedEx Legal Department, they acquiesced and proposed limiting only military duties involving flight while on concurrent FedEx duty.
Additionally, ALPA felt strongly that if a pilot were unable to exercise the privileges of their FAA Medical Certificate and operate FedEx aircraft, then they should be allowed to execute military duties that did not involve flying. Again, management eventually agreed that our interpretation was reasonable.
Everything else in the FedEx Military Procedures Handbook is mostly in line with policies at both Delta and United. In our final summation, your ALPA Military Affairs Committee, with ALPA Legal consultation, determined that this handbook was a positive step in assisting our crewmembers as they balance the demands of family, military, and FedEx. None of the company procedures or policies annotated in the handbook are new or unique. They have been in place for a long time. We feel that having these “interpretations” coalesced into a single-source document would be beneficial to our members; in the past, our members were subject to the personal subjective opinions of individual members of management as they interpreted USERRA on their own. Additionally, most of the questions we dealt with from our members concerned the administration of vacation, sick bank, and pension benefits, which are items that ALPA has no control over. Now, those items are explained more thoroughly in this handbook, although ALPA has still requested that further tables and charts be included to more easily present benefit information to our pilots in the same manner that United and Delta handbooks provide that information to their crew force.
This is a good document for reference by our crew force. Is it a perfect document? No. Could some of the interpretations of USERRA change over time? You bet. If, at any time, you feel that your rights under USERRA are being violated by the company, the ALPA Military Affairs Committee will put you in touch with local ESGR reps to begin the process of dispute. This is a process that begins with the ESGR and can escalate all the way to a formal complaint with the Department of Labor. For the majority of our crew force, this handbook is a benign publication that will have zero effect on the way we submit our MLA notifications and execute our military duties. Future Positive Rate message lines will discuss the company’s new Military Affairs liaison, peak period military duties, and crewmember concerns with certain aspects of the new handbook.
In the end, we believe that management inviting us to review the document is a sign of trying to establish a better working relationship with ALPA regarding our military members. The handbook was going to be published with or without our input, and we are glad that they worked with us to effect some positive changes in their policies. Our endorsement of this handbook marks what we believe is a fundamental shift in the company’s culture toward our military members, as they move toward our mission statements of assisting crewmembers, rather than engaging in what may have been construed as harassing behavior in the past. We also feel that the company’s new Military Affairs liaison, Jack Ramsaur, will usher in a new culture of respect and support for our military members. All of our interaction with him thus far has been extremely positive, and for the first time in history, the ALPA Military Affairs Committee attended the company’s New-Hire BI Military Brief as a joint participant. With the exception of scheduling conflicts, ALPA will now have a permanent presence in the company’s New-Hire Military Brief. That by itself is evidence of management’s desire to work together.
Please contact F/O Eric Maurer or me with any questions or concerns over Military Affairs. In addition to our e-mail addresses below, my cell is 901-378-9272, and I am available at any time to you, the crewmembers we serve.
Captain Phil Faucheux