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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

ALPA: The Puppet

Delta: The Puppet Master

The pilot pays for this puppet show, with a whopping 1.9% of their salary. Nothing is exempt. Not profit sharing. Not sick leave. Not vacation pay. Not even when ALPA costs you your job, but you fight like hell and run your attorney bills up and get your job back without their help, and the company has to make you whole with back pay, ALPA still swoops in and takes their cut. Even though they did not represent you. In my case it was more than lack of representation. 

Imagine paying that kind of money and learning that your union was working with the company to remove you from duty, but not just your job, but to ground you for life. That's exactly what happened with me, ALPA, and Delta. 

This would be similar to moving into a community where the requirement to live there is a payment of $5,000-$10,000 per year for dues. If you don't pay, you don't stay. But you get 24/7 security. Then you learn that your security guards are not just looking the other way when your house is being robbed, but they unlocked the door and they held it open for the bad guys to rape you, too. 

When Delta paid a doctor $74K to give me a false and permanently medically disqualifying diagnosis, and spent the better part of two years, plotting, planning, and creating pretext (detailed in Flight For Discovery) the question asked most often: 

"Where Was ALPA?" 

The answer...
Right there in the heart of it 
helping Delta!

Below is what transpired by ALPA Attorneys, Rachel Samuda and Gordon Rose. But these attorneys worked for their bosses at National. National ALPA directs all local attorneys. National ALPA controls the local representation of Delta. I wrote to the ALPA MEC chairman, Jason Ambrosi, to request his assistance to investigate and hold Samuda accountable for her part in what transpired, after Attorney Betty Ginsberg from National ignored my pleas for an investigation. Ambrosi stated:

"I want you to know that I have directly worked with Rachel Samuda and have found her work on behalf of the Delta pilots to be a credit to ALPA. In my opinion, Delta pilots are fortunate to have Rachel on our legal team."

Jason Ambrosi conducted no investigation. He subsequently became the next ALPA National President. Just another in a long line of "Delta" Captains running National ALPA. 

Many ALPA representatives apologized for what ALPA did, but they were not there at the time or couldn't do anything to stop it. One ALPA representative asked me how I knew when not to trust ALPA attorneys. I told him that their behavior and actions did not make sense. When my gut told me something was wrong, I wouldn't follow their advice. I did what I thought to be the best course of action. Had I listened to my ALPA attorneys I would have been buried many times over. 

My advice to any pilot is to trust but verify. Don't put your life or career in someone else's hands. Below is what transpired with ALPA. These are only the highlights, the details would fill a book. Today is just to create context for what will be coming next week. 

Don't do it, they're going to get you! 

My Seattle Captain Rep, Jud Crane, told me that he thought that the company would give me a Section 15 if I proceeded with a meeting. At the time I did not know what a Section 15 was, but could not believe that an internal report to help the company would be anything but positive. What I didn't know was that Captain Jud Crane had knowledge of Jim Graham's November 9, 2015 email asserting that was planning to do this to me after I had met with him and Dickson. Jud knew this was a fact, not speculation. He also refused to testify in fear that his disability would be removed. 

Once Jud knew that I would be meeting with Steve Dickson and James Graham, he advised me to speak to an ALPA attorney first. I agreed. I met with Rachel Samuda the day prior to my reporting safety concerns to leadership. She spent the better part of the 3 hours trying to convince me to not give anything in writing to Graham and Dickson. Had I listened to her, my case would have been a he said/she said non-winning defence. 

Rachel's reasoning for not giving them anything in writing was, "It's the attorney in me to not put things in writing. Besides, they (Dickson and Graham) are so corporate they're scary."

Put EVERYTHING in Writing!
Copy many people! 
Nothing is Anonymous. 
Your documentation will be your protection.

When I was pulled from duty, ALPA attorneys Gordon and Rachel advised me to take "unpaid leave" and not go to neuropsychological testing. Both ALPA attorneys knew that if I took unpaid leave, I would never return. I would also have not received any pay through the initial process to fight this battle. Because I did not listen to them, I received a paycheck for the first nine months of my battle.  

I have hundreds of emails from Rachel Samuda of which she refused to answer any questions. When she did she was evasive at best. She defended the company. When I asked her to clarify a paragraph in the contract, she copied and pasted the paragraph. 

At no time did any ALPA attorney, or representative, ever advise me of the Section 15 process, despite my begging for help. I was not the first Delta pilot who had gone through this, but Samuda and Rose acted as if I was. Once you are in battle with the company, your local representatives step back and allow the attorneys to run with the issue. At least in my case. 

Dr. Tom Faulkner

Dr. Faulkner (Delta's in house doctor) stated that he and Riccitello (AMAS) agreed to send me to Dr. Altman. That joint selection is a PWA contractual process. Discovery, however, showed that Delta's labor relations attorney Christopher Puckett selected Altman. Puckett then told Faulkner who they were using. Faulkner then told Dr. Riccitello. Riccitello then pretended he followed the contract. Chris Puckett and Regional Director and Chief Pilot Phil Davis met with Dr. Altman in a Chicago hotel room for 10.5 hours discussing a strategy prior to my evaluation. ALPA never had any objection to this behavior.

Christopher Puckett

Each person involved in my case knowingly violated the contract. When I asked ALPA attorney Gordon Rose if he had any information on Altman he said, "Delta uses lots of doctors. I have no knowledge of Dr. Altman." Samuda said, "I have no personal knowledge of Altman". Please read the attached document of which I later learned that they "ALL" had knowledge of Dr. Altman. Even ALPA's AMAS doctor, Riccitello, knew of him, as he later told me: 

"Dr. Altman is the FAA's Big Gun"
But he's not even an AME

I had reached out to Tim Canoll ALPA National President at the time, a Delta Captain, and sent him this letter for help. He ignored me. I was advised by another ALPA National representative that she was told to distance herself from me. That would not be the first time I heard that statement, or the last. 

At one time I mentioned to Rachel that I had recorded a meeting. She advised me that we were not allowed to record. At the time, I had no idea. But the next meeting I attended, was the first time I was asked if I was recording. Coincidence? Perhaps. 

I have dozens of emails with Samuda that I challenged the company's conduct and violation of the contract, but Rachel always defended the company, not me. She also waited until Friday at the close of business if she were to respond. 
In a grievance I had written, Samuda reworded it to the point of inaccuracy. When I challenged her, she said that it didn't matter at this phase what it said. Of course it did. I rewrote it, and then proceeded to rewrite everything she wrote thereafter. Accuracy is essential. 
Neuropsychological Testing

The biggest joke in the industry
designed to remove pilots
I was subjected to neuropsychological testing. At the time I did not know there was a training facility that Dr. Faulkner and ALPA (AMAS) used for pilots to pass this test. Those that did not have a hit on them, at least. I learned about this in the final hour from another pilot, and asked to delay my testing to prepare. The other pilot was given six months off with pay to study and pass the test that he initially failed. His was not a Section 15, but a concern from his AME. When I asked about training, Dr. Faulkner said that it was impossible to prepare, despite his sending pilots to it. Rachel and Gordon told me that I could not delay and had to proceed as scheduled, even though they knew about this testing facility. I would have had seven weeks to prepare if they had shared that information. 

The neuropsychological testing was scheduled to be completed in one day. This was a three-day process with two days allotted for the testing. When I told the facilitator I was brain dead and asked about this rapid pace, she told me that it was not normal to do all these tests in one day, that my doctor ordered it that way and, "the human brain cannot process this much information in a short amount of time." I voiced my concerns to Dr. Riccitello, Rachel and Gordon, but they did nothing and said that we should just see how it turns out. They made no objection. 

It turned out that Dr. Altman stated I lost my medical in part to the results of my testing. ALPA took no action. One month later the Mayo Clinic said they would not retest me because the results of the first test were "Exceptional in most areas and those that were not, were just fine" and they would learn nothing new. Dr. Altman had lied. ALPA did nothing. 

I had initially filed a grievance for the company sending me into the Section 15 because it was unwarranted. At the time I did not know about the AIR21 statute. When I realized that ALPA was not assisting, I did my research, learned, and I filed an AIR21 Complaint. I was lucky to find this in time because there is only a 90-day statute of limitations and one of the reasons I am trying to change the law.  I had both a grievance under the RLA and a complaint in Federal Court. Yes. You can have both, but we'll learn why Federal Court is where you want to be. But also how the company will use a Collateral Estoppel claim to derail you in the arbitration process. 

Lee Seham

When it finally came time to proceed with this grievance, I employed my AIR21 attorney, Lee Seham, to represent me in the grievance as well, because it was apparent I was not being defended by ALPA. He also knows labor law and the AIR21 statute and could protect me from Delta using this process to derail the AIR21 case. ALPA then advised Delta of Seham's representation, and Delta then employed an outside attorney, Jeff Wall.

Jeff Wall

Throughout this entire process Rachel worked with Delta's labor relations attorney, Chris Puckett. Therefore Delta now needed to employ an attorney with skills to stand up to my attorney, because the company no longer owned the process with ALPA. I was wrong on both accounts. First, Delta still owned the arbitration process. Second, Delta never employed any attorney that has the skills to stand up to Lee Seham. 

The Arbitration process: 
Arbitrators are Paid Businessmen

We have a strike-off process to select an arbitrator. There are 11 arbitrators on a list. We strike, they strike, and so on... until one is left. However, ALPA would not allow me the strike-off process in my case.  

Attorney Jeff Wall requested we go directly to a five-person board, and then he selected four arbitrators and sent us the short list with dates, and said we could pick one of them. However, the 6-month forward schedule of availability had just been released a week earlier, and the dates of availability of his selections were in conflict with that schedule. The only way Jeff Wall would have been able to select dates that were not on that schedule was if he had spoken to each arbitrator. 

Delta's selection of Arbitrators that agreed to work on their days off, on behalf of Delta and ALPA were:  


Died at 94 in 2020

Rachel defended the company's selections. She refused to provide me an overview as to the performance of all the arbitrators on the entire list. She refused a strike-off. She argued as to why the above selections were okay and were not tainted, despite Wall speaking to them and Delta selecting them and no strike-off process. 

Lee finally told Samuda and Jeff Wall that due to ex parte communications we wanted all four struck off.  This grievance discussion was in July of 2017. After Lee voiced his objections, Jeff Wall subsequently disappeared, meaning he made no further contact, and Rachel never mentioned my grievance hearing again. Until she did. 

I was busy trying to get my job back, while Delta continually violated the contract over and over again. Not a day went by that I was not making a call, researching or doing something proactive. I also requested grievances to be written on what I assumed Delta had done in violation. I would later have proof in discovery of these violations, but thanks to ALPA it wouldn't matter. Rachel did not file any of my grievances, which came close to exceeding the time limit when I learned of her lapse. I even found issues in the contract and wrote resolutions to change them, such as pilots with mental health issues being thrown on the street if they don't solve their problem in two years. Then I had to face my attacker. 

James Graham (Jim)

At one time I was ordered to fly to Atlanta with a two day notice, the last day of Delta's time limit to respond to my initial grievance. My Captain Rep made an excuse why he couldn't join me. I had sit in front of Jim Graham, the person who started this process against me, and took the action. Imagine if your judge was your attacker, that's what this was. I later learned that this meeting was supposed to be in my base (Seattle) with my chief pilot. Rachel knew, and said nothing, but allowed this process to happen. 

I never lost my medical
But that didn't matter

I was cleared by the neutral doctor in August of 2017, and Dr. Faulkner told the neutral doctor to do it again with "no expense spared" and Delta would fly out anyone out to him, to assist. ALPA did nothing. The neutral did another evaluation, and in September I was cleared again. But Delta delayed my return for another month with ALPA looking the other way. Every day, for a month, I reached out to Samuda who ignored my calls, and waited until Friday night to respond to any emails as she walked out the door for the weekend.  

It took three months longer than it should have to be reinstated after I was cleared. I never lost my medical. Unfortunately, my daughter who is now in a wheelchair needed another back surgery and I was her caretaker. I needed to use my sick leave and help her. Gordon, Rachel and ALPA contract administrator Hartley Phinney, adamantly argued against me for the right to have my sick leave until after I was trained and back on the flight line. 

The company's position statement said I would immediately be made whole, yet "ALPA" argued against this stating I had to attend training first. Regional Director, Mike Levis, who knew what had been happening but did not have the courage to stop it, gave me a gift of kindness and approved my sick leave. Yet, Hartley Phinney said that he didn't care if I had it, I couldn't use it until after training. Sigh. Yes I could, and I did. 

ALPA Takes Another Victim
On Behalf of the Company?

During this time, Delta Captain Karl Seuring had a grievance hearing, in addition to his AIR21 filing. Rachel scheduled him with Carol Wittenberg. Wittenberg had never done a case for Delta to that point, other than being proferred in my case. I had warned Karl that she was one of the ex parte arbitrators that Delta had selected for my case. He believed in ALPA. He lost his arbitration. He was terminated. 

Carol Wittenberg

The financial Pain!

All along I had been paying supplemental insurance through DPMA, Delta pilot mutual aid, but they refused to pay me the allotted 50% pay while I was out on a forced disability. I had funded my DPMA, and should have had access, and ALPA refused to help remedy this or offer assistance.  They wanted me to sign a document that I was bipolar. I wasn't so I didn't sign.  I never lost my medical. Regardless, I was forced on disability, but wasn't receiving half of what's owed. ALPA wouldn't help. 
One week prior to my initial B777 training was to begin, after being off for two years, Rachel stated we had to get my grievance off the books.  I told her that I was going to be in training, and we did not need to do my grievance at that time, and it could wait until I was done with training. She agreed, but she said they had already selected an arbitrator. 


One of the four arbitrators 
that Jeff Wall had selected a year prior: 
Carol Wittenberg!

Of interest, Carol Wittenberg wasn't even available for the next 9-11 months for this grievance. I shared this inconsistency of the "rush to get it off the books" yet the dates available were not for many months with my captain rep. He agreed it was odd and said he'd look into it. Days later Rachel proffered new, more recent dates.

The day after Rachel notified me that Wittenberg was selected, Delta's newly appointed outside  attorney, now Ben Stone, of Munger and Stone, immediately notified the OSHA investigator to call off my AIR21 case because we were handling this in the arbitration process, and he asserted I suffered no harm having been returned to duty, and arbitrator Carol Wittenberg was selected. 

Ben Stone

OSHA agreed to drop the case based upon a few government mandated rules, one of which was I had to be involved in the arbitrator selection process. I notified Rachel of this government requirement and she argued against it. I gave her the manual. She said that ALPA did not have to follow the OSHA mandate, but only the contract. Yes, but I explained that while Delta had to follow OSHA, ALPA had to support me, and this gave ALPA leverage to change arbitrators. She still refused. 

Rachel finally said I had to pick a date from the newly selected dates of June or July 11th. I told her I had no intention of Wittenberg as my arbitrator, and that forcing me into this process at this time would impact safety because I wanted to focus on my plane, having not flown for two years and did not want to deal with this. She ignored all my concerns, and said once again, I had to pick a date.

I then asserted my attorney was busy in June, and my 37th wedding anniversary was July 11th and neither date worked. Rachel selected July 11th for the hearing. 

I subsequently dropped this grievance and proceeded in Federal Court. I prevailed. The Decision and Order can be found here. 

Funny Side Note
Proving you can find humor everywhere

Ira Rosenstein, from Delta's high-priced law firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius, had asked my attorney Lee, at the very beginning if I would be willing to go to mediation instead of court. Lee explained the mediation process to me, and then I sarcastically said, "Oh, that sounds like such a good deal, but only if we can have Carol Witenberg as our Mediator." Joking of course. 

Lee fell silent for a moment, and then said, "Well, that's exactly who they wanted." That wasn't a joke. 

My response was, "Not no. But hell no." 

If a picture speaks a thousand words... 
What does four pictures of the same arbitrator say?

I'm working on the novel, Flight for Justice now. But sadly I do not believe Justice really exists. We have unions that are suppose to help, but when they don't everyone is harmed. When people can be bought there is a problem. When people look the other way, there is a bigger problem. 

If the very people you pay to protect you,
harm you, what can you do?

If it's a union, you could file a DFR
Duty of Fair Representation
But that is another story all it's own...
I could have filed many DFRs along the way, but I did not. Not until the final hour, after ALPA threw me under the bus when I finally brought three grievances to a hearing. Grievances that would have helped all Delta pilots. 

Standby for the ultimate betrayal 
by ALPA. 

Until then, 
Enjoy the Journey

Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727


  1. I wonder if Mary Larson was there taking notes for Jim, all while stroking him under the table?

    1. Cleaning off his shoes...right? :) Oh... I could say so much more...but I'll leave it at that.

  2. Quote from an alpa rep scott martin at a termination hearing after being asked by a witness if he would stand up for himself in this circumstance: “no, I don’t have the courage [the accused] has.”


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