US Airways Roadshow and what unions think about.

Doug Parker of US Airways came to the DFW area with AA union leaders in tow to do media interviews in both Dallas and Fort Worth and make the case for a merger between US Airways and American Airlines. I have to believe that American Airlines executives would have liked to have arranged for his plane into DFW to be diverted.

So far, AA hasn’t reached any agreements with either the pilots or flight attendants. The pilots refused to send the last and best offer to its membership and we’re not surprised whatsoever. At the end of the day, even with the contracts abrogated, AA *still* has to come to terms with its unions and it’s doing a very poor job of that. Even the bankruptcy judge has pointed out that both parties will be stuck with each other.

There is a perception in these struggles that unions are always about more money. It is often portrayed as more, More, MORE on the part of airline unions and the thing is . . . it isn’t true. More money is rarely the true issue with employees.

We hear over and over again that more money doesn’t make for a more happy employee or a more productive employee. It’s quality of life that does so. The secret to Southwest’s success with its employees and productivity isn’t the high wages (although they are very high), it’s the cooperation that exists between company and unions that provides high quality of life.

Furthermore, employees really do want to see their companies succeed. Company success provides more stability than anything else for employees. So when American Airlines union leaders start talking about how they recognize that concessions will be fairly drastic no matter what the bankruptcy outcome and that their chief focus is now on company viability, don’t go thinking that is a smokescreen.

It isn’t. American’s biggest problem with its labor is not money. It’s a loss of confidence. That loss of confidence didn’t happen over night and it didn’t happen accidentally. There is little leadership at AA and that has been true since Gerard Arpey took over many years ago. AA executives are very, very good at managing certain aspects of an airline. They manage finances and fleets very well. They can apply the science in running an airline with the best of people out there.

What they haven’t been able to do is inspire employees and bring about both revolutionary and evolutionary change. They haven’t been able to get their labor to start marching together and working together to compete. That’s leadership and leadership isn’t accomplished by cutting management ranks and consolidating responsibilities. It’s about finding one Great CEO who then has to find many great managers to execute a vision and leadership.

Believe it or not, US Airways and Doug Parker do this. They do it despite big problems with their pilots and flight attendants. Despite the bickering that exists in those two labor groups alone, they still operate an airline that has improved its quality in every area and dramatically so. They get employees to cooperate and to excel at their jobs. Look at the fantastic job done in cleaning up the problems in Philadelphia, for instance.

AA unions see that and recognize what’s been lacking in their own company for a long time: leadership.


One Response to “US Airways Roadshow and what unions think about.”

  1. **applauding**

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