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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 04 (1984)

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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 4 (1984).

Up Against the Gloom and Doom! Aggressive Unionism at Eastern Airlines


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    Breaking New Ground: Pension Fund Bargaining at Eastern
    Barber, Randy (1984-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Traditionally, unions have exercised their economic power through the strike and the boycott to gain collective bargaining agreements and through the day-to-day enforcement of contract provisions. But the rapidly growing mobility of capital and the increased rate of introducing new technologies have increasingly neutralized the effectiveness of labor's fundamental tools. Thus, it is crucial that unions begin to develop new tools to enhance the economic power of workers. This means that labor must redefine its role with respect to the economy and to the process of allocating resources in the society. Increasingly, unions are demanding plant closing protections, a voice in the introduction of new technologies, restrictions on subcontracting, commitments for reinvestment in existing facilities, and job security for current workers.
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    Interview with Charles Bryan, President, District 100, I.A.M.
    [Excerpt] "The long-term success of any corporation is fundamental and necessary for the success of the union. So to put your head in the sand and say, 'I just want to pull my head out when I can, slam my fist on the table and make my demands,' that, I think, is Dark Ages thinking. I want that responsibility. I want to be a part of the decision-making, so that I can be sure that wages be given priority in the distribution of revenue, for example. That was probably one of the most important discoveries that we made."
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    Searching for Eastern's Bottom Line
    Locker, Mike; Abrecht, Steve (1984-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Over the last two years labor unions have faced escalating demands for concessions and give-backs. To counter the spread of concession fever, many unions are trying to develop a more sophisticated picture of a company's financial condition and overall strategy. First and foremost they are taking a closer look at the factors that determine a company's bottom line. The underlying assumption is that management uses financial accounting gimmicks to "reduce" profits and justify concessions. This is not an easy task, primarily because the expertise and data needed to investigate a company's performance is not readily available to most unions, especially at the regional or local level. In-house capacity in this area usually resides at the national level where in-depth research on specific companies is either inaccessible or nonexistent. Very few accounting, consulting or research firms serve unions; most have a strong pro-business bias that accompanies their reliance on large corporate accounts. As a result, most unions stand at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to refuting company claims of hardship. This weakens both the leadership and membership, and makes it difficult for unions to present their case to the press and the public. At Eastern Air Lines, two unions used very different approaches to analyze the company's financial condition. The pilots hired a prestigious corporate accounting firm. A partner in this firm flew down to Eastern's Miami headquarters for a half day presentation.In a subsequent 30-minute oral report to the union leadership he "confirmed" that Eastern was in bad shape, thereby justifying concession demands. Nothing was put in writing for the membership and the fee was $5000. IAM District 100 took a different approach. The leadership decided first to educate themselves about Eastern's finances in order to independently assess the company's condition. They realized that this required a solid understanding of basic accounting principles. For guidance, they turned to experts not beholden to company clients. Finally the IAM leadership educated the total membership about what they had learned.
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    Questions & Answers
    [Excerpt] As part of a sophisticated public relations campaign, management released a series of bulletins which purported to answer its employees' questions and "concerns." Samples from Bulletins 7 and 8 are reprinted below. On the facing page is a Bulletin 9 of unknown origin. It followed a similar format as the company's previous bulletins. But, as you'll see, its answers have a different character and point of view. Bulletin 9 was distributed through regular company channels until it was discovered that it did not accurately reflect management's views. After that, rank-and-file Machinists made sure that their brothers and sisters had a copy ofN°9.
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    Chapter 11: The Fall Crisis at Eastern
    Baicich, Paul J. (1984-01-01)
    [Excerpt] When the IAM's contract with Eastern was ratified on April 8, membership morale and self-confidence were at a high point. But labor relations in the airline industry as a whole were bad and getting worse.
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    Research, Experts and Building Solidarity
    Urra, Marty (1984-01-01)
    [Excerpt] The message read, "Be in Atlanta for emergency meeting of unions with Eastern" and was signed by Charlie Bryan. The contract we had won with Eastern now had to be defended against the banks to whom Eastern owed so much money. In Atlanta we listened to a very somber Frank [Excerpt] Borman describe how the banks, led by Chase Manhattan and Citibank, were refusing to roll over loans that were coming due. The bankers insisted that Borman win "concessions" from us by June 21 or Eastern would be thrown into "technical default."
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    To Frank Borman
    Mungovan, Barbara (1984-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Frank Borman's campaign against the Machinists at Eastern included a flurry of letters to the union's membership. These letters, as has become standard in employer campaigns for concessions, blamed the union leadership for the company's problems and tried to convince the rank and file that the company, not the union, had the worker's best interest at heart. Borman always ended his letters by saluting "his" employees with a hearty "God Bless You." Barbara Mungovan, an aircraft servicer at Eastern's base in Miami and a member of LAM Lodge 702, sent Frank the following reply in February 1983.
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    I Don't Remember Raping You
    Mungovan, Barbara (1984-01-01)
    [Excerpt] I Don't Remember Raping You (Sung to the tune of I Don't Remember Loving You by John Connlee)
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    IAM District 100 Vs. Eastern and the Banks
    Banks, Andrew R. (1984-01-01)
    The story that follows is a story of how IAM District 100, step by step, escalated a struggle over almost every major issue facing the labor movement today: concessions, control of corporate investment decisions, the power of the financial industry, management- initiated "employee involvement" schemes, workers' education, joint control over large corporate pension funds, and union leadership style. The Machinists at Eastern would begin this struggle on the shop floor and eventually take it to Eastern's stockholders meetings and to the boardrooms of the world's largest financial institutions. In this bleak period for labor, where unions are battling daily against corporate demands for concessions, IAM District 100 had the harder task of ending concessions that had already been granted.