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Lost Battle, Lost War

May 18, 1986

Professor Lester Thurow's theories regarding the ramifications of the flight attendant strike on TWA ("Winning the Battle, Losing the War," April 27) bear little resemblance to reality. The strike continues, and about 4,500 career flight attendants at TWA have lost their jobs.

They have been permanently replaced by new hires. To date, only 1,100 of the 6,500 flight attendants have crossed the picket lines. If the company did not have the ability to replace us, or if the International Assn. of Machinists had been able to sympathy strike with us, we may have won this strike. However, the union knew before calling the strike that we could be permanently replaced. The union has also known since 1982 that the IAM has "no-strike" language in its contract and would be enjoined from honoring picket lines.

So Icahn easily won the battle. But will he lose the war? Contrary to Thurow's theory, this airline is not made up of "disgruntled, surly" employees and "serfs" who are going to sabotage the operation.

Indeed, the employees now working for TWA--whether they're new hires, returning flight attendants ("scabs," in the jargon of the union), or other career employees who have already made concessions to the company--realize that this is probably TWA's last chance for survival, and are almost universally pulling together to keep this airline flying.

We are trying to secure our jobs for the future and have put the frustrations of the past aside to accomplish the task at hand.

If anything causes Icahn to lose the war, it will be as a result of the soft dollar in Europe and the disastrous affects of terrorism abroad, which have dealt a double whammy to our international operations.

But rather than whine, we're all, Icahn included, doing what we have to do to cut our losses and insure the survival and viability of this company.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the flight attendant union not only lost the battle, but also lost the war. The union leadership may well be assured of landing jobs with some other organization that purports to support organized labor.

In all probability, the leadership will be lionized by these outside organizations that are safely distant from the real battle and who know little of the facts.

But what of the thousands of flight attendants who have lost their jobs and in whose name this battle was waged?


18-year TWA Flight Attendant

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