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Strike Story Challenged

July 21, 1985

In response to "Unions Look Like Winners in United Strike" (Labor, June 19), Harry Bernstein implies that the airline pilots won a significant victory and that there was clear evidence that United management's goal was to break the union.

Perhaps it was the other way around. Why did the pilots union refuse the offer by Richard Ferris, Chairman of UAL Inc. to appear in Chicago at the first national teleconference prior to the strike to answer any questions? Why did the pilots union in the "back to work" agreement insist that they must represent the 500-plus pilot trainees who were not union members or United employees, the flight attendants, and the management pilots? Was this authority in the pilot union's bylaws? Or was the proper procedure for the company to deal with these groups independently?

Bernstein also said that the company's aim was to eliminate the unions and to drastically reduce wages and benefits to the levels common among non-union airlines.

Did he compare the two-tier agreement already in existence between American Airlines and their pilots? Was he surprised to learn that United Airlines' proposed two-tier pay scale for new pilots was superior to American Airlines' two-tier and other benefits? Was he surprised to learn that American is a union airline?

Bernstein's reference to "hidden agenda" was certainly not hidden but open and clear by the company. It seems like the company's demands in the "back to work" agreement were fair, and the commitments to the non-strikers important. Can you blame the United chairman for keeping his word and fighting to keep his promises to the people who kept the airline flying during this unjust and unnecessary strike? It's rather nice to see integrity in today's world. The fourth area of confusion is the statement, "It (United) would not promise that flight attendants who had respected the lines could return to their jobs."

The flight attendants union contract is still in effect until next year. Didn't the company agree to recall all striking flight attendants after the strike on the basis of seniority and availability? Didn't United clearly notify each flight attendant (by Western Union Mailgram and regular mail) of its policies and conditions of replacement before the strike?

A final point: A union official was quoted as saying, "Other airlines will learn a lesson from the United strike and not engage in the kind of open warfare United did with its employees."

The warfare, better described as a "family feud," was more of a war in attitude by the unions against the company rather than vice versa. The public should be aware that the flight attendants had no opportunity to vote on their union strike, which supported the pilot union's strike.

Another thought should be considered: Was it the AFL-CIO plus affiliated pilots and flight attendants unions intent to break UAL?

Now that this emotional and unnecessary strike is over, United will be in a better position to compete and survive. When provisions in the union contract are announced, it would be ironic if the unions finally agreed to United's proposal, which the company submitted before the strike took place. If so, there wouldn't have been complications of a "back to work" agreement and the whole exercise would have been for naught.

GLENN GRAHAM

El Toro

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