The aviation industry has been one of the most strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions have left many without work as flights are grounded, while cargo pilots continue to keep the economy afloat.
Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Captain Joe DePete joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how pilots and the aviation industry has dealt with the pandemic and the importance of work to the American culture.
Growing up around labor
Captain DePete was around labor unions from a young age. Growing up in New York City, his father was a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
After graduating from college, DePete served in the U.S. Marine Corps. After his service he had a one-year stint working for American Airlines. Following this he began a career with FedEx where he climbed the ladder of the ALPA to where he is today.
Airline pilots and the COVID-19 pandemic
DePete said the aviation industry has been devastated by COVID-19. Travel restrictions have grounded passenger flights, while cargo pilots have continued to keep the American supply chain alive, piloting shipments across the country and world.
However, he said pilots have seen little guidance or safety mandates from their regulating industries. After being prodded by pilots and others, companies began forming their own protocols.
DePete said he wishes the federal government would have done more to help pilots. While the CARES Act was groundbreaking and greatly helped, the funding has since run dry, leaving workers to fend for themselves.
The dignity of work
Lastly, he reflected on Senator Sherrod Brown’s slogan of “the dignity of work.”
He said that work brings people together, even with the largest of barriers between people, work is the common ground. Without work, people lose hope and come into struggle.
THe major problem throughout the pandemic has stemmed from the richest Americans growing their wealth during the pandemic, while the working class struggles, loses their jobs and ends up in financial distress.