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Sep 11, 2002
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American''s crews ''broke'' and ''tired''

Cuts force many to scrimp, work long days to keep families afloat

07/08/2003

By KATIE FAIRBANK / The Dallas Morning News

Tim Schwagart commutes from Dallas to Chicago to hold onto his job. Barbara McGowan-McMurray works 30 percent more hours to keep her paycheck about the same. Laura Lohrman, distraught about losing her job, killed herself.

Workers at American Airlines are finding it difficult to handle the sweeping cuts they accepted to keep the Fort Worth-based carrier afloat.

Morale is very, very low, said Steve Blankenship, head of the national communications committee for the Allied Pilots Association. But we clearly understand the long-term viability of this airline is directly related to the sacrifices we''ve made.

In April, pilots, mechanics and flight attendants agreed to thousands of layoffs and reduced pay and benefits to help keep the airline out of bankruptcy. American''s parent company, AMR Corp., had been losing money steadily for about two years and was on the verge of filing with the courts for protection from creditors. But during desperation bargaining, the airline leadership persuaded employees to accept $1.8 billion a year in cuts.

Workers saw their pay slashed by 16 percent to 23 percent, and those cuts are now showing up on their paychecks.


Furloughs for 1,300 mechanics, 1,200 fleet service clerks and 3,100 flight attendants followed. About 2,200 pilots will see their jobs eliminated in July, according to an airline spokesman, who declined to discuss how employees are faring at the airline.

Mr. Blankenship said percentages don''t tell the whole story.

It''s not just a simple pay cut, he said. I''m a captain on the Super 80, and if things continue to go as forecast, I''ll be moved to first officer. That''s a 50 percent pay cut. It cascades down to 100 percent pay cut for those that are furloughed.

Workers have scrambled to reduce their budgets. They say they''ve canceled vacations and child care and swimming lessons for their children. Some have found they can''t afford their cars or their homes. Nearly all are working longer hours.

Scrimp is a good word to describe the American Airlines flight attendant lifestyle, said Rock Salomon, who''s been a flight attendant for more than 12 years. We''re broke. Not only are we broke; we''re tired to boot. With the new work rules in place, we often work 11-hour days with a 9 ½-hour layover.

''A hard time''


Ms. McGowan-McMurray, a flight attendant and American employee for more than three decades, says the cut to her take-home pay was a lot more than 16 percent. Her take-home pay has decreased by 33 percent because of additional cuts in vacation, overtime and increased medical premiums.
We took a lot bigger cut, she said. The people that are working are having such a hard time. I know pilots and flight attendants that have had to sell their homes. It''s not because they overextended themselves. They believed they had a viable deal.

I''ve also seen a lot of people retire in disgust. They didn''t really want to. All of that is quite a hardship, she said.

To make up the difference, Ms. McGowan-McMurray has canceled her cable and refinanced her truck. And she''s working 30 percent more to try to make up the difference in pay with overtime.

Many people didn''t know how bad it was. I think they were floored when they got their checks at the end of June, she said.

Workers are worn out from the extra effort and extra stress.

Obviously we''re still here working and doing the same job. It''s harder, and it''s taking longer hours, Ms. McGowan-McMurray said.

Most employees would be willing to sacrifice if they thought their pay would eventually return to original levels, she said, but now all we see is a deep, dark hole.

Hole was too deep

For Ms. Lohrman, who had two grown children, the hole was too deep. The 17-year flight attendant flew most of her career with Trans World Airlines, which was purchased by American in 2001. She was furloughed on her 40th birthday in January.
Five months later, she committed suicide.

Ms. Lohrman''s mother, Jackie Mayhew, said that her daughter was devastated because of the layoff and that her life had spiraled out of control.

It just wasn''t a job – it was an identity. She had no other education, and she could only find minimum-wage jobs, Ms. Mayhew said. She just got to the point where she didn''t see any way out.

Ms. Lohrman''s death shocked the close-knit airline community.

Hundreds of co-workers – some estimated as many as a thousand – flew to St. Louis for Ms. Lohrman''s funeral.

It was hard news, said Sharon Shadrach, a flight attendant who took retirement to avoid receiving a furlough notice. Now we''re keeping track of each other. I don''t know how this last group that was furloughed is going to handle it. They''re not getting furlough pay.

Liz Geiss, information representative for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said it''s been difficult for many of the workers.

Morale is very low. It''s a very sad time for them. These days, this job is a [lifetime] career. It''s devastating, she said.

Mechanic Tim Schwagart of Arlington is so happy to have a job that he says he feels optimistic about his situation.

To keep his job with American, Mr. Schwagart opted to work out of Chicago, flying home to see his family on his days off. At least we''ve got the paychecks coming in. I''m going to commute for as long as it takes, he said.

Long days

In Chicago, he shares an apartment with three other mechanics and works 10 ½-hour days so he has more days off to spend with his family.
I work on planes, then get on a plane to go home to see my 9-month-old. That''s the hardest part for me, said Mr. Schwagart. I can talk to my wife and 7-year-old.

Mr. Schwagart and his three roommates found a place near public transportation because none of them has a car. They''re looking forward to getting the next guy into the crash pad because he has a truck, and it will reduce the rent even more.

They sleep on air mattresses and use camp chairs to watch their 10-inch television. They pool their money to buy meat to grill – and sometimes it''s the only item on the menu.

We''re getting used to each other. At one time I was a bachelor, but now I''m married and living with guys, Mr. Schwagart said.

It''s different. Sometimes it''s kind of humorous.

And despite the hardship of being separated from his family, Mr. Schwagart says he believes this is the best thing he can do.

9-11 impact

You''ve got to make the best of it. That''s what everybody does, he said. This is what we''ve been dealt since Sept. 11, and the further we get away from that, the better we are. I''m confident that staying with American Airlines is the best thing I can do. It''s the best thing for me.
American hasn''t finalized its restructuring plans, and the airline said last week that it would announce further cost-cutting moves soon. American is still deciding how it assigns its maintenance work, its route structure and its fleet.

But bookings have been strong through the summer and planes are flying more full, giving kernels of hope to stressed and depressed employees.

People are looking for glimmers of hope and glimmers of a turnaround, said Mr. Blankenship. A glimmer is a glimmer. We''re waiting to see.
 
I believe the AFA Local President of PIT wrote about the "domino effect" way back in late summer of last year, and also in the winter, that THERE WOULD BE created a "ground swell" if the U Labor groups approved these concessions. Airline Mangements across the Industry would attempt to gut their labor contracts and Labor, and they would "burn" their own cash to do it.

In her Winter Concession newsletter of Dec. 20, the very last sentence, as she voiced her "non-support" position to her members of PIT,( and they damn well voted it DOWN), she wrote,

" will I facilitate him (refering to the Union Buster himself in CCY) in piercing the very heart of our contract...N-E-V-E-R."

She stated in her mailings that every Major would run to get their "free pass" by using the same egregious threats. The strife and perils of the Majors has more to do with strategizing ways in which to "bust unions" financially then any 9/11 event. These concessions are worth billions and billions of cost savings to the Industry, and no one airline will have that only advantage, and they have the Republican houses to assist them in their endeavors against Labor, as well. She wrote this out to Siegel himself in an e-mail in late August, and he wrote back that AA would never hurt their "stock holders", and that he could not see this happening. Show you this man is totally in the dark, or just loves to think he can "snow" everyone. These Majors just waited to see if the "con men" and "extorsionists" hired at U would be able to succeed with their threats, intimidation and gutting of our contracts, stealing benefits, wages and pensions from their employees by using these egregious threats to accomplish their mission, and now, these Majors copy U.

Where will this all end up, with employees of these airlines financially liquidating their own assets, even though they have jobs? Answer: We will ALL be competing against each other, instead of as "high cost" carriers, we will be competing at the same level "as low Cost" carriers. Who then, will have the advantage or competing edge? What of employee morale in this process?
Does the "human element" in Corporations count for anything, and does it matter? If so, then how so?


The most disingenuis statments of all by our particular NEW management is the facade paraded that they were "labor friendly" and would only partner with "labor friendly" investors....what a joke on us. That just took every piece of the cake, didn't it?
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Hell, I could write a book on the dismantling of Unions in our Industry.
 
you never cease to amaze me. You actually think that the airlines of this country would fake near financial ruin, just to bust the unions. Bring your head back into the sunshine my dear. This is the real world.
 
They may not fake them, but they sure can make things look a lot worse than they are. The books can be shifted many ways depending upon who holds the pencil. ENRON ring a bell...MCI perhaps. Granted they made things appear to be better than they were. There is no reason that the Major Airlines can''t paint a bleek picture to squeeze bigger concessions out of their employees. Mark, if you are not in management...you shoud be. Keep up your pro-company posts, and maybe CCY will give you a call. I kept a positive outlook longer than most, but is has gone far away. It is sad that the airlines have USED 9/11 as thier concession scapegoat. Anyone who can see thru this knows that this has been in the making for years. The airlines have wanted to go Union Busting for years. 9/11 made it fall right into their laps.
 
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On 7/12/2003 1:36:19 PM MarkMyWords wrote:


you never cease to amaze me. You actually think that the airlines of this country would fake near financial ruin, just to bust the unions. Bring your head back into the sunshine my dear. This is the real world.

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Here is the REAL WORLD, LQQK and read:

There is an article today see: [url="http://msnbc.com/news/937302.asp"]http://msnbc.com/news/937302.asp[/URL]
Now granted this is not about the airline industry it’s about the pharmaceutical industry but I believe it’s indicative of Corporate America and their mind set. So when people come on here and post what you consider to be outlandish, look no further than the press to see the true colors of corporate America and what they will stoop to, so in that light, nothing seems outlandish.
 
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On 7/12/2003 1:36:19 PM MarkMyWords wrote:


you never cease to amaze me.  You actually think that the airlines of this country would fake near financial ruin, just to bust the unions.  Bring your head back into the sunshine my dear.  This is the real world. 

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Mark,

Do I think the airlines would "fake" their financial situation to appear far worst than they were.....you've got to be kidding....we are talking billions and billions of cost reductions just from labor, that airline mangagements have only dreamed of.

Everything at U MUST go through Cohen in the finance dept. The finance dept runs all of U. When they say more heads need to go, they furlough more "rank and file", just to meet the "numbers". They have no interest in service or customer care or employee well-being.They do not understand that TO MAKE MONEY, YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY. Its the cost of doing business. Most of the business plan here at U has to do with JUST cost reductions,and buying Small jets to operate a regional carrier and downsize... that's it. No "revolutionizing the fare structure, marketing a unique product like JetBlue and their TVs and such to increase revenue...JUST COST REDUCTION TO TURN A PROFIT. This management will do everything they can to turn a profit for Bronner, they would BK their own mothers and sell them if they could. Their careers and bonsuses are tied to it. This management threaten, lied, connived the whole plan. Why did they bring the "great wizard" in CCY and hire him from his consulting firm of "union busters" Ford and Harrison? "WHEN THEY ROAR....WE POUNCE". That is now OFF of their web site since they've been exposed.

In all of your wisdom, did you think for one moment that U would be sitting with all of the advantage for long? Did you think that the Majors would sit straddled with debt from the 90s while U went gleefully "dancing" into BK, singing "Na, na na, na na, na"... to free themselves of unwanted debt and lease agreements, pension liabilities etc.? In your infamous wisdom, did you imagine that no other carrier would take the same leap/path? Really now, United, AA, NW, DL, CO, are you that naive to think they would let U get all this advantage on them? For FREEEEEEEE? Billions from labor for years, and it would just be U only? Do you not see any, and I mean any similarities between United and U, all the way down to a NEW CEO, along with AA? Or, are you just thinking YOU maybe able to "snow" the folks on this board? You do read right? You do know that presently there is a battle going on with the "base ball arbitration bill" introduced by the likes of Senator McCain. You do know that there is a present battle on "over time" on the hill? You are aware that Bush and his cohorts are trying desparately to "thwart" unionization of TSA, and blocking them every way he can? You do not see a conspiracy here against unions and Labor in this country? And, you just want me to go nicely into the "sunset" gleefully broke, watching my collegues battle depression and financial ruin, ignore these indications as NOT delibrate and don't speak of conspiracy, and "suck this all up, as necessary??????
All of this??? Really now.......is management on drugs???

WE, my friend, are in the "light" now, cause we have seen the light. It is you who remain in the "dark", and perched so "comfortably" on the "dark side".
It is you who needs to come into "full view". It ain't over, till its over....
If we as employees can't have a livable wage, no execs or stake holders will.

Union busting is a billion dollar business, you do know that is a fact. In your deepest thoughts and in your heart, you know I am not wrong on any of this.


Could YOU be Dave? or perhaps some VP? Is this why you have such a "distain" for my views? Get MANAGEMENT OFF their KISTERS, and tell them this: "Either they operate in "good faith", play "nice, nice with labor" or they can say "good night, Irene" to any future Labor relations dialogue or "relief" from any labor group". It will be hard- core union PUBLIC/MEDIA blitz.
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And Cavilier,

Great example above. World Com is another example of cooking the books and having the apppearance of "inflating" their maket value just to increase the stock price.

Yea, Corporate America with all its fine, Harvard/Yale educated grads execs looking for ways to "screw" the American public.
 
Fake it? You decide, but I believe they would most certainly make it ''appear'' worse than it is. The PIT AFA President was right.
 
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On 7/12/2003 1:36:19 PM MarkMyWords wrote:


you never cease to amaze me.  You actually think that the airlines of this country would fake near financial ruin, just to bust the unions.  Bring your head back into the sunshine my dear.  This is the real world. 

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Mark My Words...You are to be pitied..that boot you are licking must really have some payoff..and believe me...I''m being nice.You are the lowest of the low, God help you.
 
It''s become obvious to me that the Ivy League Business schools are no longer teaching "Ethics" but instead have added a new course: "Honor Among Thieves". As long as you take care of your own, get them to sit on your boards, return the favors, you''re an upstanding member of the alumni.

So sad for all of us.

Dea
 
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On 7/14/2003 12:49:34 AM Dea Certe wrote:

It''s become obvious to me that the Ivy League Business schools are no longer teaching "Ethics" but instead have added a new course: "Honor Among Thieves". As long as you take care of your own, get them to sit on your boards, return the favors, you''re an upstanding member of the alumni.

So sad for all of us.

Dea

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Ethics, who said anything about ethics. It has become quite obvious the only thing these management types can do well is lie, cheat, and steal.
 
Golden,


You make me howl....what the heck could the moderators be deleting??? AGAIN...
 
A few quick points

1) I wonder what the average rate of pay is that the DMN article was speaking? If pilot salaries are being trimmed from 200K to 120K its not like the depression or anything. There are many pilots who never got that much.

2) The handwriting has been on the wall for at least 3 years as to the demise of the major carriers. Even though AA was losing money in early 2001, the pilots were picketing in Miami, Boston and a few other cities looking for more money so they could be paid on par with United. As I recall, AA pilots said their morale was low then too. Are airline employees ever happy?

3) Airlines are owned by by investors and their purpose is to make a profit (or return of investment for investors). However, whenever airlines make the profit then all employees line up with their hands out looking for a "fair" raise. Of course, they don''t stop until there is no profit left. Then when bad times come, the airlines have no cash to cushion the fall.

4) Too many airlines consider themselves "businessmen''s airlines". That is code for "we can charge exhorbitant airfares because the business can write it off". Back in the days preceeding Y2K that worked because business passengers were working in the "go-go" days of the dot.com craze. That era has passed and no one will pay those air fares any more.

5) While I think management (not just airline management) has done a grave disservice to its employees I can''t necessarily fault the head of U for making a $1M last year. If you want to pay for good management and the company is badly scrwed up, you have to pay a premium for good people. You can''t just hire somebody off Wall Street, then immediately expect to cut his/her own pay because of "shared sacrafice".
 
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