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Not-so-blue skies – 4.7.07

Op/Ed

Not-so-blue-skies 

Star Telegram
Saturday April 7, 2007

Will this be the final straw? More than four years ago, American Airlines' management and its labor groups entered into the unfamiliar waters of working together to avoid bankruptcy. Both groups will agree that the threat was real — and it still may be, depending on the dedication of all groups to truly "Pull together, win together."

Mitchell Schnurman's Sunday column ("It doesn't smell like team spirit") about multimillion-dollar payouts to American's top managers discussed wage sacrifices on both sides and the need for this upper echelon to postpone payouts until they're shared across the board in some way.
Although I agree with his position regarding these payouts, I must point out some of the additional sacrifices that labor groups have made.
In addition to deep pay cuts, work rules changed. These sacrifices have affected employees and their families. Most passengers aren't aware that flight crews are paid only for their hours in the air. Safety checks, boarding, deplaning and time spent in the airport and sitting at the gate are unpaid.

Flight attendant crews work as much as a 14-hour day (while getting paid for as little as seven) with minimally staffed, very full flights. More often than not, they end the day with only 10 hours to deplane passengers, get to their hotel, find an open restaurant to eat a bite, get a few hours' sleep and get back to the airport to do it all again the next morning.

To make up for lost wages, they work more hours than ever and spend less time with families. Often this puts the burden of running things at home solely on their spouses. As an American Airlines family, we made this sacrifice because we believed it finally would be a shared sacrifice for the betterment of the entire company.

We still believe that a shared sacrifice will be the only way to guarantee its success and ensure a shared profitable future — not just for management but for everyone who made the sacrifice. What remains to be seen is if management shares in our belief.
Shylene Quinones, Euless
 
Schnurman failed to elaborate on the elephant in the room: Executives in our country are grossly overpaid. The amount of money they make is obscene.

The argument by AMR management that American Airlines' top managers are underpaid in relation to other top executives falls on the deaf ears of American workers. Most of us believe that top executive pay already is grossly out of balance with that of the work force. Why would Schnurman suggest that they deserve more?
Debbie Terrell, Saginaw
 
Given that Schnurman compared airlines, perhaps it's important to note this comparison to American: Delta and US Airways have terminated their pension programs. Northwest has frozen its pension program. American has the best-funded pension program in the industry.
James Adams, Denton
 
As I read Schnurman's column, I couldn't help but think about the advantages that American Airlines employees have over those at other airlines.

The real issue isn't executive compensation. It's the steps that management has taken to stay out of bankruptcy and thereby protect the pensions of tens of thousands of workers.

These pensions are a rarity in the airline business and corporate America, and members of the Allied Pilots Association should be thankful for that.
Melanie Sanders, Dallas
 
Employees certainly helped save American Airlines from bankruptcy. (Their givebacks in 2003 contributed nearly $2 billion of the almost $6 billion that the company has saved during the past few years.) But it's my view that senior management should be rewarded not only for keeping Fort Worth's largest employer out of bankruptcy but for continuing to restore it to financial health.
Lynsey Daniel, Dallas
 
That was a charming metaphor you used in the Feb. 25 story about American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey and the purple papier-mâché dinosaur that his daughter gave him because it had "magical flying powers" to save the airline. (See Business section story "Working his magic/CEO's turnaround plan worked. But what's next?")

It painted an image of Arpey as a good husband and father (as he likely is). But he's also the man who's leading the effort to transfer money from his employees to his management team.

In truth, it wasn't the magical powers of the dragon that saved American Airlines but rather the collective sacrifice of the employees who, since 2003, have given nearly $5 billion in pay and benefits to keep American flying. If there's any magic here, it's how these same employees make their mortgage payments and put their kids through school after having contributed so much to save AA.
The only real flying powers in play are possessed by the pilots of American Airlines who, along with their fellow employees, actually perform with near magical power to keep this airline running. Yet these same employees have been completely shut out from even the most basic steps toward recovering all they gave up.

Unlike rank-and-file employees, members of AA's senior management team have seen their personal income rise rapidly, surpassing by multiples what they earned prior to 2003. As of this month, they will have extracted well over a quarter-billion dollars in bonuses for themselves. As if by magic, the money has gone from the pockets of the employees to those of top managers.

Perhaps the purple creature on Arpey's desk isn't the only dinosaur at AMR. Perhaps the true dinosaurs are the managers who (as your article stated) wanted to throw in the towel, who wanted to cut and run when things got tough. Arpey had to plead with them to stay and now pays outlandish bonuses to buy their loyalty.

Perhaps he should have let them go. Perhaps he wasted his words then, just as he seems to be wasting our sacrifices now.
Denis Breslin, Allied Pilots Association, Fort Worth

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Euless, Texas 76040

M-F: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Call APFA

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Phone: (817) 540-0108

Chat APFA

After-Hours Live Chat
M-F: 3:00PM - 11:00 PM (CT)
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APFA Events

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