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Pilots' Strike at United Airlines

June 10, 1985

The tragedy is that they'll go on believing they're right and lose their jobs at the same time. I'm talking about the pilots of United Airlines and others who have joined them in sympathy, in their walkout against the company.

Unfortunately, although from a different perspective, I know whereof I speak. As a mid-level management employee of 10 years standing, I used to work as the manager of publicity for an airline that longtime employees proclaimed with honor as "The Proud Bird With the Golden Tail." Taken over by Frank Lorenzo in late 1981, the airline is now only a shadow (if that!) of what it used to be. Lorenzo has forever changed the face of the commercial aviation business in the United States, and it's too bad the UAL pilots don't recognize this brutal fact of life. I'm sure that when Richard Ferris says he will rebuild the airline to 100% of capacity by early 1986, he means it.

Union members seriously doubted President Reagan would fire the air traffic controllers several years ago. He did. Some foolish Continental employees believed Lorenzo when he said he would not split up the company and that, among many other broken promises, he would not move the airline to Houston. He did. Alaska Airlines said it would permanently replace all striking mechanics and other ramp personnel who went on strike in early March. They did not believe the airline would. It did.

When Frank Lorenzo declared bankruptcy at Continental, he did so with only one thing in mind. To break the unions. Other top management people across the country took note of what he did and how he did it. And they all probably applauded when he got away with it. Now they are all taking a leaf out of his book--and it's tragic that so many dedicated, longtime (and I stress the word LONGTIME) employees at UAL refuse to see the light. UAL, like others before, and certainly others in the future, are ALL taking a leaf from Lorenzo's book on how to break a union, disrupt loyal employees' lives, and ruin the camaraderie of some truly great companies.

Lorenzo must have smiled through clenched teeth as he said he would keep on every employee at Continental in a press conference prior to the rapacious assault on Continental. He smiled because he knew he would not keep his promise. He didn't, for once he'd won his battles with various courts he started, slowly at first and then very rapidly, to decimate Continental of its proud and truly dedicated employees. An attribute that meant nothing to him.

If those UAL people walking the picket line feel sure it could not happen to them, I urge them in the strongest possible term, think again.

This letter sounds as if it were written by a union member. Nothing could be further from the truth. As stated, I was a dedicated member of management at Continental, but as surely as beautiful Boeings crease the skyways of the worlds' airways, so too will UAL (just like Lorenzo) change the face of the Friendly Skies. Forever. Which is very, very, very sad.

JOHN D. CLAYTON

Rancho Palos Verdes

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