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Message From Gordon Harwell

I’d like to take a moment to thank Lucas, Ben, and Jon for all of their effort overseeing and administering the nomination and election process. I’d also like to thank Greg Awbrey for all of his hard work and dedication to PHI, the Union, and his fellow pilots.

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Ryan Lanning to the position of Secretary/Treasurer. He is currently an S-92 PIC in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve known Ryan for over 15 years. We served together in the Marine Corps and have both been with PHI for over 10 years. He is a consummate and demanding professional. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to fly or interact with him on a personal level, you would be hard-pressed to find a more focused, thorough, and disciplined pilot. Now Management will get to experience these traits first hand.

Since we didn’t have a full election process, I never had the opportunity to introduce myself or offer my ideas for the Union. For those of you asking: “Who the hell is this guy?” I’m Gordon Harwell and I’m a PHI pilot just like all of you. I came to PHI after nine years in the Marine Corps and I’ve been here for over ten years. That’s more than some, but not nearly as long as others. I spent nine years in the Gulf flying the line and working in the Training Department. I came over to the Air Medical side last year and I’m currently flying out of Wadsworth, OH supporting our contract with the Cleveland Clinic.

Over the past ten years I’ve been impressed time and again by our peers and fellow employees. I’m confident we have the best trained and most professional pilot cadre in the helicopter industry. I believe the success of PHI rests primarily on the shoulders of our fellow pilots. Despite operating in challenging environments in support of customers demanding the highest levels of excellence, we continuously and consistently deliver on PHI’s promises. It is only fair for Management to do the same.

One of the greatest lessons I learned during my time in the Marine Corps was the concept of Confrontational Leadership. For those of you unfamiliar, it is simply the philosophy of acknowledging an issue and resolving it. It is philosophy of engagement and resolution, not one of simply treating symptoms. This may sound obvious. In fact it’s the underlying foundational tenet of Destination Zero. And just like Destination Zero suggests, we need to Stand Up, Speak Out, and Take Action. We cannot just Sit Down, Shut Up, and Take It.

I believe our ultimate goal as a Union should be the safety and fair treatment of our fellow pilots while contributing to the continued success of PHI. This will require us to be actively, consistently, and continuously engaged with management and our fellow pilots. It will not be fast and it will not be easy. It is a long term process with a goal that will always seem just out of reach. We have to remain committed and engaged. Going forward I believe this engagement should focus on three main areas: Safety, Communication, and Professionalism.

Workplace safety is historically one of the primary focal points of any labor union. The safety of our fellow pilots, employees, and passengers should be our greatest concern. Fortunately, PHI has a robust Safety Management System including Destination Zero and the Life Saving Behaviors. Unfortunately the acceptance and commitment to these programs and polices seems limited to upper management, pilots, and our fellow line employees. For some reason, middle management tends to conveniently forget about these programs or feel they are merely a marketing program when faced with operational or customer pressures. I believe we can accomplish many things by making the safety case to management. Safety is not just an intrinsic value, it’s also good business. PHI’s reputation for safety is well deserved and one of our greatest selling points when gaining and retaining loyal customers. Ultimately safety is not about numbers but rather a continuous effect accomplished by consistently adhering to standardized policies and procedures. Our professionalism as individuals and as a group are the greatest safety assets available to PHI. It is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that short sightedness by a few individuals does not adversely affect our safety or the long term success of PHI.

Communication will be critical in everything we’re trying to accomplish. This includes our communication with Management but also, and most importantly with our fellow pilots. I am going to do my best to increase the amount and frequency of information you receive. I am going to try and have quarterly if not monthly membership meetings online. I am going to try and have a quarterly, if not monthly newsletter. In short, I want to ensure our message and efforts are available in as many forms as possible. By informing and mobilizing our fellow pilots, we will have an opportunity to make our voices heard.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my belief in Professionalism as a primary driver of safety and success. As a group, I think we’re the most professional pilots in the industry. By focusing on professionalism we can push the company and Management forward. Rather than reacting to policy changes, we can attempt to push and advocate for positive change.

I could write at great length about all of these topics, but I don’t want to lose any more than I already have. If you’re interested in more detail, feel free to write or call. I plan on using the newsletter and web page to discuss some ideas and hear your thoughts on different topics.

Finally, I’d like tell you my thoughts on this position. I believe in 100% transparency and access. If you have any questions, concerns, or disagreements with me or anyone else, please contact me or anyone else directly. If you have questions about what we’re doing, ask. I view this as a position of service to a group of people and an organization I care about. I don’t view it as an opportunity to exert some non-existent authority, power, or influence over my coworkers. I work for you. If I’m not providing the service you want or I’m pursuing a course you disagree with, let me know. I need your input and your feedback. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please know I take this position and responsibility seriously and I will do everything in my power not to let you down.

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Member Benefits

  • A $2,000 Death Benefit – through OPEIU
  • A $2,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment Benefit – through OPEIU
  • Identity Theft Protection against the fastest growing crime in the United States – a crime that takes a victim, on average, 165 hours to regain pre-theft status – through OPEIU.
  • Two towing/service calls per year for members and family living in the same household –valued $100 each – through OPEIU.
  • A Complementary WellCard Discount Health Program through OPEIU – offering prescription drug discounts, first access medical discount benefits, vision and dental discounts and pre-paid lab and imaging discounts.
  • OPEIU Scholarships Funds:
    • Howard Coughlin Memorial Scholarship Fund - Full-time Scholarships of $6,500 and part-time scholarships of $2,650
    • John Kelly Labor Studies Scholarship Fund - $3,250 for either undergraduate or graduate students in one of the following areas of study: Labor Studies; Industrial Relations; Union Leadership and administration;
    • OPEIU Romeo Corbeil/Gilles Beauregard Memorial Scholarship Fund offering twenty scholarships for young people, between the ages of thirteen (13) and sixteen (16), to attend a summer camp at University Forest in Wappapello, MO where they will learn as well as have a great fun experience.
  • Student Debt Reduction Program
    OPEIU is pleased to offer a new OPEIU Student Debt Reduction Program to help members repay their student debt. The fund will provide five awards of $2,500 each year. A member can be awarded only once in a lifetime, and must have completed an associate or undergraduate degree. They must also have at least $10,000 in student debt and be able to prove their account is current. Application acceptance begins April 1, and the deadline for all submissions is June 30.
  • AFL-CIO Union Plus Benefit Program.

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