UPDATE: Neil Swindells has resigned.
In an unexpected move, mainline pilots at United Airlines have elected a new union leader, replacing a controversial union boss who held the position for less than a year.
Neil Swindells Elected New ALPA Union Leader By United Airlines Pilots
On Monday, pilots at United voted to elect Neil Swindells as their new Master Chair of the United Master Executive Council (MEC), part of the wider Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) union. In a letter to pilots obtained by Live and Let’s Fly, Swindells introduces himself and promises to be a zealous advocate for United pilots:
December 19, 2022
Good evening. My name is Neil Swindells. I am a 787 Captain based in Chicago and I was just elected as your new Master Chair.
As you know, Captain Mike Hamilton resigned last week, pending the election of a replacement, due to a serious family emergency. I have known and worked with Mike for over 30 years and I will take this as my first opportunity to speak on your behalf by saying we all send Mike and his family our very best wishes, and thank him for his decades of dedicated service.
As United Airlines pilots, we are all keenly aware that not only is our current UPA almost four years past its amendable date, but also that the Company’s last offer fell short of your expectations by an historic margin. The strength of that 94% No vote was vitally important to your MEC in helping them understand not only the standards you have set, but also the standards we must meet. That pilot unity, coupled with MEC unity will stand us in good stead going forward.
Speaking of unity, I must address how important it is for United ALPA to speak with one voice…a strong voice that is backed up by 15,000 pilots who are tired of being taken advantage of, tired of a Company that fails to keep their commitments for an industry leading contract, and tired of seeing their own union treated with disrespect. I am tired of it too, and I have been elected to help change that.
Thankfully, some of this work has already begun, as evidenced by the outstanding informational picketing events currently taking place throughout the system. In just the past few weeks, we have had pilots turn out in the hundreds at the Denver Training Center, at the United Airlines Board of Directors meeting in Houston, and at our Chicago and Newark hubs. I hope you can attend one of the upcoming events and picket with your fellow pilots, and even our union brothers and sisters from other airlines and employee groups who walk with us in solidarity.
As your new Master Chair, I will devote my time to returning this pilot group to the top of the industry. That will start with an industry leading contract that reflects what CEO Kirby says he wants to achieve…the best airline in the history of aviation flown by the best pilots in the history of aviation. As pilots, we are already there. It’s time for the Company to catch up and recognize our continuing contributions.
We will not be distracted by Shiny Jet Syndrome, nor seduced by fancy speeches on CNBC. What we will do is demand the professional respect we deserve for the “Safe, Caring, Dependable and Efficient” service we provide every day for this Company.
As your Master Chair, I will personally reassess the next UPA proposal we slide across the table to the Company to ensure it contains not only the economic value required for it to be ratified by you, but the values needed to promote a safe work-life balance and rid us of decades old, bankruptcy era, work rules that are completely inconsistent with the CEO’s stated vision of the best airline in the history of aviation.
Like you, I am looking forward to the future with excitement and enthusiasm. I believe we are at the airline best placed to leverage not only our global network, but our greatest asset: the employees…and not just pilots…every employee. However, as brilliant of a concept as United Next may be, United Next cannot come to fruition without a Contract First.
I thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking to you more in the days, weeks, and months ahead. For now, though, it’s time for me to get to work!
Captain Neil Swindells
I will refrain here from speculating about what may have been going on behind the scenes, but one thing is certain: there was great anger during the brief tenure of Captain Hamilton. Hamilton brought a contract to pilots in late October that offered a 15% pay raise over 18 months. 94% of pilots voted against the deal, a humiliating setback both for United and for the union.
Pilots at United Airlines have elected Neil Swindells as their new union boss. He assumes the position after Mike Hamilton held the role for less than a year. Swindells is a polarizing figure; we will have more say about the controversy surrounding him in our next story.
image: @UnitedPilots / Twitter
Who can seriously and realistically explain to me exactly how has Kirby exactly disrespected, shunned or gaslit UAs Union in any way, shape or form?? He, as far as I can see, has always been available, respectful and willing to have a dialogue or discussion with these guys? Couldn’t this exaggeration of facts have a more sinister purpose behind it? They have all the troops riled up purporting Kirby as the bad guy and United Next as the enemy to destroy. IMO.
Exactly. I’ve asked for proof that Kirby disrespected pilots and was only given vague generalities that failed to convince.
Very well said.
When the airline has been against the ropes over the decades and needed contract concessions from its pilots, those concessions were expected in days and weeks, instead of multiple years, the latter being the case every time the United pilots expect their fair share for their sacrifices. (Remember the “Shared sacrifice, Shared reward” BS under Glenn Tilton? Some of us can’t forget because we are still feeling the financial consequences of those years.)
That’s the frustrating difference, and it is the same under Mr Kirby as it has been under most United CEOs. Want to make employees feel valued? Stop the foot-dragging as a convenient negotiation tactic.
The pilots of United did not vote for NS, the union leaders made the decision. I don’t remember getting a ballot.