Both the Dallas and the Tarrant County AFL-CIO councils called for solidarity with American Airlines employees and retirees at a picket line on February 14 at Terminal D of DFW Airport. The response was really good. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) originally called the action, but the pilots and the Transport Workers Union quickly joined in. UFCW members, CWA, and at least one Steelworker and one Autoworker were there. AFL-CIO leader John Patrick came up from Austin and I talked with one of the several families who had come in from Tulsa. About 400 were picketing at noontime. A lot of them were finely uniformed flight attendants in high heels!
The problems started November 29, 2011, when AMR Corporation announced the bankruptcy. As news leaked out, it became apparent that management intended to shut down their Alliance Airport work, shut down a facility in Tulsa Oklahoma, lay off 13,000 employees, and dump as many as 130,000 pensions on the federal government's much-abused Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC). The PBGC has been underfunded for years, especially because of legislation passed in 2007 allowing corporations to pay less than what was needed to guarantee pensions. American Airlines, according to a Reuters article, held back a billion dollars!
It is common nowadays for corporations to evaporate their "legacy costs" in bankruptcy court, but it wasn't even legal before 1986 when LTV Corporation of Dallas tried to take away the pensions of their aircraft employees. Later, LTV succeeded in getting a bankruptcy judge to help them dump the pensions of their steelworker employees. Since then, corporations and bankruptcy judges have regularly taken the pensions earned year by year and hour by hour away from those who earned them.
"Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Corporate Greed Has Got to Go!" was by far the most popular chant, but there were also a few original contributions such as, "They got no soul, they got no feeling, taking our pensions is just stealing!" and "A-A, what do you say, how many people did you rob today?" The curved front of Terminal D amplified the sound very nicely!
The American Airlines bankruptcy and the tragedies it is generating are international news. It was hard for the picketers to avoid bumping into the newspersons. TV cameras were everywhere.
The three major unions at American Airlines are scrambling to negotiate new contracts before the bankruptcy judge rules. They are calling on the non-union employees, retirees, other unions, and everybody in the area, all of whom will be hurt by the economic fallout of the bankruptcy, to join in solidarity. Thanks to union leaders like T.C. Gillespie, President of the Tarrant County AFL-CIO, their message is being heard!