"What mess?" Do you need to ask?
As employee groups at one airline after another sit and wait for their turn to get fleeced (another "F" word seems more appropriate but it would probably get edited out) by the corporate/government alliance, our unions, especially those of us in AFL-CIO unions, seem powerless and resigned to allow their members to go down without a fight.
For years we heard of the benefits of affiliation and how the power of the AFL-CIO helped its members. Sadly, that "power" was contingent upon having the unreliable Democrats in power. Now that they are not in control of the Congress, the Senate or the White House and the Republican regime is going after unions like the Nazis went after Jews what is the new strategy? "Lets get the Democrats back in power in 2004". By then it will be too late. The reliance upon working "within the system" cannot work when those in control of the system intend to exterminate you. Recently Labor Secretary Elaine Chaos addressed the leaders of the labor movement with a litany of insults and accusations. And she is supposed to be our advocate in the White House! The Bush administration has been the most aggressive anti labor administration we have ever seen. His party has complete control of the government. As a result we have seen government interference in labor relations on a scale like we have never seen before. The President intervened on behalf of the company in the Longshoremenâ€™s dispute, several airline disputes, signed off on a measure allowing corporations to do away with defined pension plans, put in place a rule change that allows the TSA to pull an airmanâ€™s license without due process, liberalized the regulations allowing foreign aircraft repair facilities to work on American aircraft, the list goes on. So what is the strategy from the AFL-CIO? There is no viable strategy. They will concentrate on trying to help put the unreliable Democrats back in power.
If the members of the AFL-CIO were really "Labor Organizations" and not just â€œbureaucratic corporationsâ€ with more in common with the companies they negotiate with than the people they represent then we would see a plan. We would see a growing movement for a General Strike. We would see our leaders telling us to prepare to â€˜SHUT THE WHOLE THING DOWNâ€. If the industry is so â€œvitalâ€ that the government can claim eminent domain (without compensation) over our labor and refuse to allow us to strike, as in the United/ mechanics dispute then how can they allow them to liquidate? Is it just to allow a judge to force pay cuts on workers while allowing the fuel companies to raise their prices and the government to raise taxes? Isnâ€™t there a conflict of interests here? Is it just to allow incompetent executives like Uniteds Tilton to come in with empty promises and walk out a short time later with full pockets- to the tune of millions of dollars? Is it just that our property, our labor, is for the benefit of the traveling public and not our own families? A true labor organization would not resort to cost/ benefit analysis to determine their course of action. They would do the right thing. As it is now, the leaders of the labor movement, most of whom make a very good living, will not do anything that would endanger their comfortable financial existence. They would not want to risk losing the prime real estate or other financial holdings of the corporation, eh, I mean organization by doing anything that would put them in violation of the laws that restrict our freedom and ability to defend ourselves.
Those of us who belong to Unions that are affiliated have been told time and time again of the benefits of affiliation. Well where are they? What benefit has the workers of United and USAIR seen from their â€œbrothersâ€ at AA or NWA? Has even being in the same union helped any of these workers as in the case of the IAM and ALPA at both United and USAIR? The sad truth of the matter is that our leaders, from Sweeney on down will not call for any forceful action because when the dust settles their standard of living will be unaffected.
Since it is a given that our leaders will not lead where does that leave us? Well for United mechanics, they at least have a choice. They have the option of going into an organization that does not have huge holdings in real estate or a treasury to put ahead of its members interests. They can vote to go with an organization that may have no political clout, but that still has the best interests of the class of workers that it represents. They can go with AMFA, and they should.
As the old men make speeches of protest and â€œlobbyâ€ upon deaf ears we will continue to get picked off one at a time. As I said before, when the dust settles, the old men will be unaffected, they will walk out of this without a scratch. We will have gotten our buts kicked without even fighting back. They will tell us that our demise was due solely to the fact that hostile forces are in control of our government and not because we just surrendered without fighting back. They have abandoned the base upon which true unionism is based- collective action culminating when necessary in denying our opponents our labor-strike. Collective action without the strike is merely a parlor game, times such as these require real engagement.
I recently attended the TWU COPE convention. While there were many speeches highlighting our struggles and the injustices perpetrated upon the workers of this nation one word was conspicuously absent- STRIKE. Not once during the three days did I hear any leader say the word. When we said the word to them, their reaction was as if we just committed blasphemy. They recoiled as if I was saying I wanted to initiate a Nuclear War.
The sad truth of the matter is that our leaders know that we are not fit to engage the alliance on any great scale. They know that they have done nothing to train and strengthen our ability to hold it together and take on the corporate/government alliance and have built thier entire strategy upon lobbying within the system, a process that doesnt require them to get thier hands dirty or engage the membership. They cite the fact that only 13% of the workforce is Unionized as the cause of our weakness but that is not the problem. In fact strategically we are in an excellent position to take on the alliance, that is, if we had our act together. We (Unionized workers) can impact the economy on a far greater scale than our numbers indicate. We can virtually shut down just about every air carrier, we can close all the ports, stop most trucking, all the railroads, and most mass transit. A general strike in just aviation would severely cripple the economy A general strike of all the members of the TTD would stop our economy cold. The impact would dwarf anything that we have seen before since it has never happened in this country before. Historically the only comparable event would be the Pullman strike, which was a wildcat strike that spread- the leaders did not plan or call for it. There is no doubt that the alliance would retaliate and the cozy cordial relationship that labor leaders have enjoyed with business/government leaders would be permanently altered. Forget about playing golf together.
As workers we must realize that our leaders will not risk their cozy existence to protect us. The majority of those heading unions in the TTD that represent airline workers never worked in the industry. We must push them into doing it. We should contact our leaders, make motions to pass resolutions, build networks across fraternal boundaries, inform our representatives in the government and discuss and prepare to collectively engage in our right to withhold our labor. If the USAIR pilots go on strike, we should all join them, does anyone really think that our pensions wont be next? If the Senate passes any of the provisions of S-1327, we should shut it down. If USAIR liquidates, we should shut it down. We should be, and let it be known, that we are a powder keg in search of a spark.
While I am not a big fan of Ayn Rand, the creator of John Galt, she did have one thing right. She was against altruism. Altruism on the part of Airline workers towards their executive bosses who rake in millions while running their companies into the ground is wrong. Altruism on the part of airline workers towards a corporation that only seeks profits is wrong. And even altruism on the part of airline workers to make their families do without so others can fly cheap is wrong. After twenty years of altruism on the part of airline workers towards everyone else its time to say enough.
I donâ€™t think that unions are based upon altruistic intentions but rather the realization that amongst peers that there is a common challenge and a common fate. Itâ€™s not about sacrificing for someone else; itâ€™s about joining with others of a similar situation to gain a stronger hand against a more powerful common opponent. The secret to Unionism is the realization that individually we all benefit when we approach our opponent collectively
This is where the leaders of the labor movement have failed us. Our leaders have failed to lead a collective action against the corporate/government alliance. This should not be surprising given the structure of unionism in our industry, especially for the majority of mechanics and other ground workers, for these airline workers do not belong to Airline unions. Instead of belonging to an airline union these workers, and their potential collective power, are dispersed between a truckers union, a machinists union, a transit union and a telephone workers union. While we may be assets to those unions there is no reciprocal benefit to airline workers at being dispersed as opposed to consolidated. The entire structure is wasteful, inefficient and ineffective. Perhaps one of the reasons why we have not seen collective action between the unions is because they fear that by doing so they will awaken the membership to the realization that if collective action worked well why not make the collective relationship permanent? I have no doubt that the heads of all of these unions, who all preach solidarity, would rather see us take it in the shorts before they would be willing to do what should have been done twenty years ago when the industry went deregulated and started consolidating.
The challenge before the airlines is not our doing. Much of the financial distress that the airlines face is due to government mandates that should have been put in place in the mid 90s when the deficiencies were revealed, instead the government mandated them a what appear to be the worst of times. Another cause is the huge rise in fuel prices and insurance.
I believe that the government has no intentions on allowing the air transportation system to collapse. That is why we should all walk out. It forces them to reveal their hand. Liquidation is not where the airlines are going, certainly not everyone that goes into bankruptcy, reorganization is where they are going. What they could not get at the bargaining table they are going to get from friendly judges that no doubt will be rewarded in the future with a nice six or seven figure job as a â€˜consultantâ€™. Once this step in the process is complete they will try to lock us in at the court mandated reduced rates for eternity by having other government officials that are on their payroll pass S-1327. This is tyranny! This is theft! By shutting down the whole system we reveal the hypocrisy, we reveal the fraud by showing that the economy as a whole cannot afford to have the system shut down. (Has everyone forgotten how Bush stopped the mechanics from striking because he claimed that the economy could not afford to allow them to strike?) We can show the people how important our work is and hopefully show how the government and oil companies (as if there is a distinction) are the biggest drain on airlines revenues. The corporate/government alliance will still be heaping huge rewards from the industry as workers are defrauded. We can show that it is not the workers that are to blame for the industries problems but poor management that did not take into account the cyclical nature of the industry.
We have two choices, we can wait our turn and take our beating from the corporate/government alliance or we can join together and fight back by shutting the whole thing down until we are guaranteed that our contracts are honored and the government removes its fat f---ing finger from the companyâ€™s side of the scale!
1) Return the A-300s that are all leased. This will simplify our logistics chain and lower the average number of maintenance hours/flight hour required to maintain airworthiness. It will also lower the cost of parts which have to be provisioned and distributed throughout our supply chain.
2) AA is being forced to take delivery of Boeing Aircraft which they could not defer.
3) We grounded 14 767s that were coming up on heavy checks, get them into the Airbii docks for checks that were already budgeted for the 'bus but can be accomplished at a lower cost on a Boeing.
Together, with the 11 Boeing widebodies we are being forced to accept, these 25 widebodies will reduce the overcapacity problem while lowering the costs of mx, increased parts commonality, lowered costs of parts procurement, and greater efficiency for the technicians maintaining the fleet.
Additionally, we support the US Aviation Production Industry while sending a not-too-subtle message to our EU Cousins.
Members of Senior Management and of the Union have confirmed to me the some ninefold cost disparity between operations between one of our mx bases and the other(s). I've heard from both groups that certain "provisions" may be forthcoming from one of the states affected. Both groups described the effects that would be felt if BK were entered into.
My reply was that the Employees should NEVER be threatened by the PROPOSITION that MANAGEMENT WOULD DO THEIR JOB.
Whether BK or no, if the cost disparity in the base operating cost between one base and another exists at that level; the dame with the diamond taste and the beer budget must go.
How do we alleviate the transition costs?
For many of the maintenance cities, we have a "one-station" agreement which basically states that all the members of the "one-station" set can be moved between the units without the 12.5 penalty or the severance deal.
What if all of the o/h bases were made a "one-station" deal? The Company could transfer work to the state providing the best incentive package.
Ask your Local President how much the Maintenance & Related Locals are on the hook for; ask them how we can be on the hook for over half the total concessions requested when, until recently, we were far outnumbered by others.
As for the costs associated with the second proposal, I do not have firm figures but the CompAAnys' first proposal for that type relief was valued at over $220 Million of the $310 Million assigned to us by the TWU ATD.
It seems that the $620million was split in half, half to M&E and half to Joint.
I'm still trying to figure out how they figure that we are responsible to make up the difference of what they could not find out of thier initial goal that they dreamed up. I still see lots of waste and the company has not disclosed how they supposedly came up with $2.2 billion in savings.Its as if they made a half hearted attempt to make painless changes and left all pain for us. Do our executives still enjoy outlandish perks? Do they still make fortunes on a yearly basis? Do they pay deductibles and have uncovered medical proceedures? Do they pick out and pay for thier own clothes? Do they pay for thier wives clothes? Do they make car payments? Do they pay for tickets to sports events? Do they still get to bump out paying passengers? Do they have any idea how much a gallon of milk costs?
I agree that we are getting the bums rush here and its not accidental. It took us over a year to negotiate the present agreement yet they expect us to come up with a new one in two weeks. Sorry but it cant happen, or should I say it bettter not happen. One has to wonder, who is coming to whom with hat in hand looking for changes in the contract? Management is acting as if they have the right to make demands upon us because they mismanaged the company. Well, as they told us all through the nineties, "we have a contract". Just because they are threatening Bankruptcy that does not give them the right to make demands, especially unreasonable demands.
How did I get to $310 million? Well maybe the math is a little off but if you figure the average mechanic earns $60k times 2 (since employers claim that it usually costs double the wage per employeee) times 2500 equals $300,000,000. What are they going to do quible about a mere $10 million? Realistically they couldnt really expect us to meet their number, after all they set a goal of 4 billion and they were only able to find a little more than half of that, or so they say. Hey, we are not even management, we dont each get millions of dollars plus perks but we did a lot better than them, we met better than 90% of their goal, they only got slightly over 50%! Labor makes up a third of their costs yet they expect us to make up nearly half of their goal!
I dont see where we have to sell the farm and I dont think that we should give the company anything, including relief from Article 42 without something in return. After all it is called "bargaining". If we are going to allow the company to lay off 2500 of our fellow workers who voted on a contract that said that they had system protection we have to get something in return. What is "protection" for? The good times or the bad? Do you think if the tables were turned that the company would be willing to just give us something worth $310 million dollars without something in return? We know the answer to that, we saw it as we went out to work 2nd jobs through the nineties in a vain attempt to get out of debt. The language changes that I recommended, in exchange for temporary, conditional relief from article 42 require Zero additional expenditures for the company. The fact is we are in the drivers seat here. If they go into bankruptcy they would lose the opportunity to cash in on UALs distress. If war comes the result will be the same regardless of whether or not we give concessions. Why give away our aces? When opportunity comes you have to make the best of it. The company is taking 9-11, the current economy, its financial condition and the threat of Bankruptcy not as a setback but an opportunity to exploit. "Give me concessions or I'll slit my throat". Well pal I'd rather have you slit your throat than mine, but if you want to make money, talk to us. Lets see what we can work out but dont forget for even one second that YOU are coming to US to help you straighten out the mess that you made. If they continue to put on the pressure we should inform them that they are being unreasonable and we will see them in bankruptcy court.If they decided to wait until just two weeks before they need it well thats their fault not ours. I really dont see how we can agree to any permanent changes in a short timeframe with all that is going on in the industry and the geo-political scene. Our best approach is to not rush into anything.