Unions materialize for good reasons, and AMPA is not an exception to the rule. Over the years, Boeing pilots considered forming a union a number of times. In 1988 meetings were held to discuss unionization. A retiring Boeing Vice President had ended a yearly bonus of $6,000 that was intended to keep pilots with the company. The bonus was paid at the completion of each year on staff. Compensation was the main issue. But long time flight crewmembers convinced the great majority of Boeing pilots that The Boeing Company took good care of its employees and to trust the company and the union discussion ended.
The next major consideration took place in 1996. Pay was again the greatest issue with pilots feeling that their earnest attempts to increase compensation were falling on deaf ears. In late summer, another Boeing Vice President bought lunch for all the pilots and they gathered on the Building 25-01 cafeteria patio for lunch and to hear him promise that he would take care of the pilot's concerns if they did not form a union. The talk of a union died again.
The next year on Tuesday March 10, 1997, an announcement, without notice, was made to the entire flight training organization that FlightSafety International of LaGuardia, New York and The Boeing Company had created a joint venture called FlightSafetyBoeing Training International (FSBTI) that would take over all aspects of training: flight, maintenance and flight attendant. The Boeing Company announced that all the pilots would go over to the new company and become employees of FSBTI. The same Vice President who had promised the pilots he would take care of them the year before was intimately involved in instigating, planning and forming the new company. A promise was broken!
The Boeing pilots balked and the great majority would not join FSBTI. In the week immediately after March 10, meetings were held by the Boeing Training Pilots to consider unionization. The feeling was nearly unanimous, and several options were considered. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Teamsters were considered. Both were eventually rejected and the Boeing Training Pilots decided to form their own association, initially called the Professional Flight Instructors Association of Puget Sound (PFIAPS).
Jim Webster, a Seattle labor relations attorney, was hired to help the fledgling group organize and achieve official status. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was contacted and an election was eventually held on Friday, August 15, 1997. There was one dissenting vote out of fifty-five, and the Boeing Pilots Association was officially born.
The first officers elected on August 21, 1997 were Captain Gil Schmidt, President; Captain Tom Wiggin, Vice President; Captain Mike Coker, Secretary/Treasurer; Captain Ron Talcott, Board Member; Captain Dave Cordera, Board Member; Captain Chuck Larson, Board Member and Captain Roger Profit, Board Member. Captain Jerry Dilling had been collecting the initial dues until Captain Mike Coker was elected.
One of the first issues for the Officers and Board of Directors was to establish By-Laws. The By-laws were officially adopted on December 10, 1997 and the association officially took a new name, Boeing Pilots Association.
During the negotiation of the first collective bargaining agreement between The Boeing Company and the Boeing Pilots Association, which was completed September 23, 1998, The Boeing Company claimed that the word "Boeing" is proprietary and that the Pilots Association could not use it in their title. Frustrated by the company's unwillingness to allow them to call themselves who they were, the pilots adopted the name, Lazy B Pilots Association. This was the official name of the union until December of 2008 when the membership voted to change it to the Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association (AMPA).
The men and women of the AMPA have a great history and tradition. Apparently unknown to most mid-level and senior managers of The Boeing Company, the pilots of the Association and their predecessors have single handedly carried on their shoulders a tremendous potential liability to The Boeing Company both in terms of dollars and reputation. Because of their experience, skill and professionalism, there have been no serious accidents or incidents in the training process for customers of The Boeing Company. An accident or incident during training could spell disaster for The Boeing Company and its shareholders.
When all of the sales celebrations are long over, the pilots of the Association are among the last Boeing contacts with the customers. Delivery, ferry and line assistance are just part of the function of Association pilots. When a new airplane is put into service, the Association pilots are often "The Boeing Company" to the customer when there is a question about flight operations or something on the airplane does not function correctly. When a system fails in flight, there are no company Vice Presidents or engineers aboard to answer the question, "Why doesn't this Boeing airplane work as advertised?" Boeing Training Pilots are there to answer the questions and satisfy the customers.
The pilots of the Association are proud of the professional training they accomplish for customers of The Boeing Company and proud of the quality Boeing products they help deliver. Quality, professional training is paramount to flight safety and the reputation of The Boeing Company. The performance of the pilots of AMPA speaks for itself.