I am truly astonished by the less-than-thorough research job done by Professor Lester Thurow in preparing his recent Viewpoint piece on the TWA flight attendants' strike ("Winning the Battle, Losing the War," April 27).
He seems to believe that the company's insistence on wage and work-rule concessions is directed solely at the flight attendants, although the widely publicized facts are otherwise. Both the pilots' and machinists' unions have been working since the start of this year under heavily concessionary new contracts, while the airline's non-union employees (including the management Thurow erroneously portrays as exempt from sacrifice) are concurrently subject to a 14% pay reduction.
They are enduring this not happily, but with genuine comprehension of the situation. The flight attendants are the odd man out in this picture, having refused for more than two years to negotiate a new contract with the necessary concessions to help make TWA cost-competitive. Thurow's feverish depiction of Carl Icahn as someone who fattens his wealth by impoverishing his employees is no less preposterous in its own way. What should Icahn do--subsidize the flight attendants' non-competitive wages out of his own pocket?
What TWA desperately needs, and has needed for some time, is the opportunity to function profitably. Icahn's actions since assuming control of TWA--including his quest for market-rate labor costs--have been aimed at that long-deferred goal.