Labor Educator Guest Column
Statement by Ray Rogers, Director,
Corporate Campaign, Inc.
American Airlines's long history of belligerency toward its employees entered a new phase when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on November 29, 2011.
As a strong supporter of organized labor and someone whose firm, Corporate Campaign, Inc., has worked successfully with pilots and flight attendants in the past battling notorious airline CEOs Donald Nyrop, Frank Lorenzo and Robert Crandall, I offer some advice to the unions at American.
Unions Should Aggressively Challenge
AMR’s Board and Sham Bankruptcy Court
December 12, 2011
In response to AMR's assault on the Allied Pilots Association, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Transport Workers Union and their members, as well as the CWA, which is involved in organizing American's passenger service agents, the unions should all work together on four key fronts simultaneously. This is necessary not only to protect their own interests and professions, but to help prevent further assaults of this type on other workers within and outside the airline industry.
Ray Rogers of Corporate Campaign, Inc. talks about AMR's sham bankruptcy filing and what the unions should do.
The unions at American Airlines should:
1. Aggressively challenge the sham restructuring proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York where the bloodletting will be from the rank and file workers and their unions.
Airline reporter Charles Leocha wrote in 2007 that bankruptcy courts have just about rolled over and played dead for airline management. "I can't remember the last time I heard pilots, flight attendants and other union members had been favored in any court decision that involved a confrontation with management," he said.
Just look at the lavish compensation and treatment afforded United/Continental's and Delta/Northwest's executives after their Chapter 11 filings. Compare that with the heavy losses and shoddy treatment suffered by the unions and employees at these airlines.
Why did AMR file for Chapter 11 in the Court for the Southern District of New York? According to Lynn LoPucki, author and professor at UCLA's and Harvard's Law Schools, companies choose this particular court because history has shown its judges will bend over backwards to accommodate big business in order to attract cases which generate millions of dollars in fees through their Court. This court is not about justice. It's about politics, business as usual and maintaining the status quo.
This court should be aggressively challenged in the public and political arenas. Right now, the unions should be planning to pack the courtroom, the hallways leading into the courtroom and to hold demonstrations and vigils outside the courthouse, while also reaching out to the public and political leaders to stop these unjust proceedings.
2. The unions should campaign to replace corrupt members of the AMR board of directors who made the decision to file for Chapter 11. Two good places to start would be Judith Rodin, who represents Citigroup's and the big banking interests, and John Bachman, senior council board member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is no friend of unions. If Rajat Gupta, the crook from Goldman Sachs, hadn't been forced to resign earlier from AMR's board, I would have added his name to the top of the list as well.
3. The unions should establish a multimillion-dollar defense fund so that they have the resources to take the offensive and wage a campaign on many fronts. They need a national campaign headquarters staffed with top notch organizers, researchers, writers, and media and public relations specialists to wage a winning effort that will maximize involvement of the unions' membership, their families and other individuals and organizations who want to support their struggle for justice -- and there will be many other individuals and organizations that want to support this fight.
4. Lastly, once the unions have really gotten management's attention and respect, they need to form a real partnership and a program with the company to maintain good labor relations and work together to build American's brand name and make the flying public want to fly American Airlines.
All the solidarity in the world will not prevail in the struggles against AMR unless the unions have a winning strategy along with the resources and organizational know-how to carry it out. That strategy must deal with the present situation during Chapter 11 restructuring proceedings, and must continue to assure that the unions secure fair treatment and contracts in the future.
About the Labor Educator
Harry Kelber, author of the series of The Labor Educator booklets, has served the labor movement for more than seven decades as a journalist, organizer, educator and constructive critic. For decades, international unions and hundreds of locals and labor councils have used The Labor Educator publications to educate members and the public and to facilitate organizing and political action. The most popular booklets have been "Why Unions Are in Politics," "Why Unions Are Good For You and Your Family ," "Por Que Los Sindicatos Son Buenos Para Usted Y Su Familia" and "Belong and Be Strong: The Union Story for Students."
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