FORT WORTH, Texas - The word went out from the Tarrant County Central Labor Council on February 10 and was soon picked up in Dallas and cities north and south three hours away: employees at American Airlines were forming an informational picket lines. The flight attendants originally called the action, and the pilots and the Transport Workers Union quickly joined in. Other unions and solidarity activists made plans to drive into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal D, for the action.
And come they did.
Why? AMR Corp., which owns American Airlines, announced its bankruptcy on November 29. To the total disbelief of local residents and their employees, each announcement from the company was worse than the last.
The company intends to close the American Airlines facility at one North Texas airport, close a facility in Tulsa, Okla., lay off 13,000 workers, tear up their union contracts, and carry out the largest dump of pension plans in history. About 130,000 retirees will find their pension promises broken if management gets their way. The federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) has jumped into the bankruptcy court proceedings to try to prevent the worst aspects of the pension disaster. Unions are under pressure to take concessions voluntarily before the bankruptcy proceedings end. The North Texas economy is bracing for a shock.
The Feb. 14 picket here started at 11 a.m. with about 100 circling protesters. By noon they had generated three more circles of the same size. Each of the circles stretched from one terminal entrance to the next. Without breaking any laws or airport rules, the employees and their friends covered the entire front of the big new terminal.
"Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go!" was by far the most popular chant, but there were also a few original contributions such as, "They got no soul, they got no feeling, taking our pensions is just stealing!" and a takeoff on a Dr. Seuss book, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant, Horton's a crook, one hundred percent!" Thomas W. Horton is Chairman, President and CEO of AMR Corp. and American Airlines.
Many of the airline employees wore their spiffy pilots' or flight attendants' uniforms. A large percentage of the picketers were walking in high heels. Many employees identified themselves by name on their picket signs. Although neither the pilots nor the flight attendants are AFL-CIO members, major local and state federation leaders were there for them. Reporters were everywhere.
This action showed that the workers are not lying down to be victimized. Instead they are speaking out and hitting the streets.
Photo: At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, February 14. Jim Lane/PW