Airline Pilots’ Contract Threatens Pilot Health and Public Safety

By Captain Bahig Saliba and Elizabeth Lee Vliet MD

Deceptive language in the eleventh-hour version of the Tentative Agreement (TA 2.0) between American Airlines Inc.(AA) and the union representing AA pilots, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), creates dangerous precedents for not only the pilots themselves but also the flying public.

In an obscure Section of the proposed contract titled “Medical Protections and Qualifications”the added language effectively results in AA pilots ceding control, under contract, over health decisions they make respecting their FAA issued Medical Certificate, effectively subjecting the public to a “second-tier” medical standard decided by airline executives rather than the FAA medical safety standard in place since the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

An FAA Medical Certificate is a protected right and Public Policy under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. (The Act) The FAA sets the standards but may not require,for lawful reasons, any medical treatment of any pilot applicant in the issuance of such a Medical Certificate. A carriers demand of any medical treatment of its pilots, creates a second-tier medical standard, superseding and replacing that of the FAA. Such second-tier medical standard brings into question the legality of the pilots who have been recently coerced and subjected, under threat of termination, to mandatory medical treatments and are currently occupying the flight decks of airline carriers. This has never happened in the history of aviation.

A pilot who submits an application (Form 8500-8) for an FAA medical examination must make a statement of health under penalty of 18 U.S. Code §1001. §1001 carries a penalty of $250K or 5 years in jail or both for making any untrue or false statement. After the examination, the pilot, and the FAA medical examiner, who issues the medical certificate declaring the pilot is fit, sign the Medical Certificate signifying a contractual agreement and obligation onthe part of the pilot to maintain the standards going forward. Before reporting for duty, a pilot must make yet another statement respecting his fitness for duty and once again before departing on every flight. These are all contractual obligations a pilot makes before even getting off the gate.

Attaching any contractual language to the pilot FAA Medical Certificate in a Collective Bargaining Agreement locks the pilot out of the courts to decide any dispute and puts the pilot under the jurisdiction of the Railway Labor Act (RLA) grievance machineryas the only recourse todecide the outcome of any infraction or invasion against the FAA Medical Standard by the carrier. That also means the airline employer candictate medical treatments that pilots must undergo in order to remain in flight status (and therefore paid) while the “grievance” is being heard in that process.

Such contract language will keep pilots from exercising their Constitutional right to a trial by jury in the protection of their medical rights, on and off the job, and coerce them into accepting medical treatments by choice of the carrier. In other words, the courts will cede jurisdiction over such cases to the RLA.

APA, a union governed by the Railway Labor Act, does not have statutory authority under the act to oversee or in any way interfere with a Pilot’s FAA Medical Certificate. Under the RLA, the union only has the authority to negotiate for Rates of Pay, Work Rules, and Working Conditions. Thus, apilot’s FAA Medical Certificate is outside the union’s statutory authority and their scope of mission. Any contractual agreement is an invasion of the pilots right as declared by the Act and Constitutional right to a trial by jury in the defense of said right.

In our Republic form of government, the power resides with the people. The people, through Congress create laws. Congress passed the Federal Aviation Act in 1958. In the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, Section 104, Public Right of Transit, it is affirmed that United States citizens have the right to transit the navigable airspace of the United States. The Federal Aviation Act did not create the right, it affirmed an inherent right of every American.

The Federal Aviation Act created the FAA, and to exercise the right to transit the airspace, and for public safety, a pilot must meet medical safety standards set by the FAA and a declaration is made in the form of a medical certification.

This second Tentative Agreement (TA 2.0) for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)was voted upon by The Board of Directors of APA on August 1st, 2023, and goes out for a vote by the pilot union members between the 7thand 21stof August 2023.

Under the union structure, the voting on a new CBA necessarily follows a democratic union governing process. That meansthat 51% of pilots voting to approve the TA 2.0 will usurp the rights of the remaining 49% of the pilots.

APA and AA have unlawfully extended their statutory authority to include negotiated terms outside their scope to include and attach language that controls health decisions pilots make in the maintenance of the FAA established safety medical standards. APA and AA are by these actions invading public policy, usurping the Constitutional rights of pilots to contract, and usurping the pilots’ rights to a trial by jury in the defense of the FAA medical. Furthermore, AA and APA are using this TA 2.0 to intrude into areas they are not authorized under the law to negotiate.

Bottom line: For the health and safety of the pilots as well as the public using aviation in America, AA and APA must renegotiate to remove any terms in the TA that attach to the pilot FAA issued Medical Certificate.

Pilots who have already suffered coercion and threats of termination of employment if they did not comply with the unlawful requirement to receive the experimental COVID shot must now stand firm against this further erosion of their Constitutional rights and their duties under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

To protect their FAA Medical Certificate, and insure that medical standards remain in compliance with the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 overseen by the FAA according to existing public policy, pilots must vote NO on TA 2.0.

The safety of the public cannot be left to the arbitrary medical rules of each airline and politics du jour. The lives of all Americans are at stake.

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