Local 33 webmaster note: The following is a copy of a letter that was sent to the bankruptcy judge handling the Northwest Airlines case. This is from one of our members.
Dear Judge Gropper, Feb. 21, 2006
I have written to you in the past and had invited you out to get a look at things from a different perspective. However I see that you have determined that you can learn all you need to know about NWA and the industry from within your chambers and within the confines of your courtroom. I can imagine you must be an expert on the airline industry and need only to hear what the NWA lawyers have to tell you because lord knows whatever they say must be true. These transients in my industry have destroyed NWA and run the ship aground intentionally. Yet I see no downside to management for running the company into bankruptcy on purpose. I mean they are awarded millions in retaining compensation for failure. I assume they will not give up their golden parachutes. I assume they will not give up their retirements [yet they expect the employees to]. And as far as I can tell they do not become pariahs among their peers.
Donít you dare abrogate those contracts. The employees have given up pay in the past and it didnít save the airline from management running the company into the ground again. We obviously need some sort of regulation because they have proven time after time after time they cannot handle pricing and capacity issues. You must not let them use employee wages and pensions as a crutch for what ales not only NWA but also the industry. The ship will never be righted if you donít fix whatís wrong with the industry. The single issue that has derailed this industry is the expansion of the point-to-point or niche carriers. The infiltration of the hub and spoke networks by these airlines has put a price pressure on the big efficient carriers that is beyond their ability to compete. That puts these transient executives like Mr. Dasburg, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Steenland in a position to try to match the pricing of the point to points and at the same time continue to offer the breadth of service only a hub and spoke carrier can offer. Unfortunately they make safety sensitive decisions that they donít fully understand the ramifications of. When I tell you that the decisions that Mr. Steenland has made is going to cost lives because the maintenance program at NWA has been so marginalized that it is no longer safe, who do you lend more credibility toÖMr. Steenland [a lawyer] or me [a technician and inspector with fifteen years working on commercial transport aircraft]? I know I know he has people that tell him itís okÖ besides the Feds are on the job and they said itís ok. They [the FAA] arenít corrupt or incompetent or anything like that.
By forcing the employees to take pay cuts you are requiring them to subsidize the convenience of hub and spoke air travel to match the prices of niche carriers. If you and the industry do not want to fix the problem and want to let the free market forces determine the outcome then that is fine just donít tie labors hands. I would also assert that if you are going to let market forces prevail and you untie labors hands, then NWA has filed for the wrong chapter of bankruptcy. Has anyone ever thought of that? Do you understand that the two types of airlines cannot coexist? An airline is not an airline is not an airline. They are two completely different animals.
One minute the industry executives donít want any government intervention [i.e. regulation]; the next minute they run to government for help controlling labor [i.e. Chapter 11 and you and the railway labor act]. Isnít it funny when they want to use the RLA and the NMB to control labor they waive it in our face but when we want them to negotiate in good faith under the RLA they run to you and ask you to obviate the whole process. And when labor wants to strike they cry foul and say we canít because of the RLA and Chapter 11. It seems like a double standard to me. A government of convenience for corporate America. I guess I am no better off than some poor slug in a third world country. Apparently NWA can do no wrong.
If you can justify the employees subsidizing air travel then Iím sure youíll agree with the following analogy. Because the U.S. Government not only is running a deficit but we also have an astronomical National Debt I think the employees of the Federal government should shoulder some of the burden to get us out of this mess. So all Federal employees should take a 20%-39% pay cut. Oh yea one more thing, nobody owns more vehicles than the U.S. Government and fuel prices are up so you guys will have to give up your pensions and fund your retirement yourselves. I need the Federal employees to subsidize my tax burden. Sounds ridiculous doesnít it? Holding the Federal employees accountable for the poor fiscal decisions of others. Using this thought process I can apply a pay cut and the elimination of pensions for every working man and woman in America. Itís not fixing the problem but itís easier than doing the right thing.
You know I went to my congressmanís office [John Kline] in Oct. of 2005 I also went to my Senators office [Mark Dayton] the same week and do you know what they did for meÖtheir constituent? Nothing! I called Congressman Oberstars office and the individual I spoke with made it abundantly clear to me that the Congressman was not interested in hearing from another laid off NWA technician. I bet my representatives will not be giving up their cushy retirements. Since itís my industry with the problem and itís my ox thatís being gored I guess Iím on my own, so much for having someone to represent me. To themÖ me losing my job, my future, my retirement is pain free. That is why you are the last hope to get the industry to examine what is wrong not just what they can do to force it to work. Shame on the other Judges who presided over USAirways, United and now Delta for using the employees as scapegoats for a failed air transport policy. Shame on the regulatory agencies i.e. DOT/FAA, shame on the legislative bodies and shame on the industry executives for not recognizing what was happening to my industry perhaps as much as 15 years ago. They all sat back and watched it implode and then allowed so many lives and careers to be destroyed as the employees bore the brunt of the failures. Does anyone have even a little common sense? Shame on any employee who would even contemplate taking a pay cut.
I personally believe that the employees should not give up one penny, [the job pays what it pays...in other words the experience, education, professionalism and responsibility shouldnít come for free] granted it is going to cost jobs and the companies are going to have to contract and the regulatory folks and the legislative people are going to have to step up to the plate and determine what kind of an air transport system they wantÖa hub and spoke with some limited point to point or a purely point to point.
At some point I would hope somebody would wake up and display at least a modicum of intelligence. NWA did not get to where they are without breaking some laws. I would think that graft, influence peddling and bribery should be considered. Arenít the circumstances that bring a company to Chapter 11 just as germane as the condition the company is in? I assume there is a set of standards that must be met to qualify for Chapter 11 and if so whatís to stop a corporation from running headlong into bankruptcy? And if a corporations executive team intentionally drives that corp. into bankruptcy then wouldnít that be illegal? And wouldnít the creditors, investors and labor unions then have a right to expect the management team to be prosecuted? The Chapter 11 proceedings should be stopped and the Justice Department, the SEC and the GAO should all start investigations into the actions of NWAís top management and Board of Directors. The JD should look into the bribery, graft and influence peddling issues and the SEC should look into why NWA intentionally went into bankruptcy because Iím sure that a corporation is not supposed to intentionally go into bankruptcyÖfor the investorís sake. The GAO should look into the NMBís biased handling of negotiationsÖit would appear they are an extension of the company and since NWA has in the past hired a mediator from the NMB during negotiations, [the very negotiations he was overseeing]; I believe it shows a propensity on NWAís part to buy the outcome it wants. It also shows the lack of integrity and the willingness on the part of government officials to succumb to greed and line their own pockets. It would behoove the airline employees if the GAO would also look into the failure of Congress and the DOT/FAA to properly oversee the industry.
I could go on and on about my industry and itís woes and I can be right six ways to Sunday but if you are not going to listen or you are corrupt then I guess I am wasting my time. I believe NWA has financial problems I just donít think they are as bad as purported to be and I donít think it is the employeeís responsibility to dig management and the industry out of the hole they dug. Always remember figures donít lie but liars figure.