Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sully Sullenberger: Union Man

US Airways Flight 1549's pilot and First Officer appeared before Congress today. I think some people may be surprised with what they wanted to talk about: labor-management relations. Seems these guys and their fellow pilots and crew members think the attacks on labor by management the last few years are going to make your chance of surviving a crash like the Hudson River Miracle a lot less likely.
Sullenberger, a 58-year-old who joined a US Airways predecessor in 1980,
told the House aviation subcommittee that his pay has been cut 40 percent in
recent years and his pension has been terminated and replaced with a promise
"worth pennies on the dollar" from the federally created Pension Benefit
Guaranty Corp. These cuts followed a wave of airline bankruptcies after the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that were compounded by the current recession,
he said.

"The bankruptcies were used by some as a fishing expedition to get what
they could not get in normal times," Sullenberger said of the airlines. He said
the problems began with the deregulation of the industry in the 1970s.

The reduced compensation has placed "pilots and their families in an
untenable financial situation," Sullenberger said. "I do not know a single
professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their
Sullenberger's copilot, Jeffrey B. Skiles, said that unless federal laws are
revised to improve labor-management relations, "experienced crews in the cockpit
will be a thing of the past." And Sullenberger added that without experienced
pilots "we will see negative consequences to the flying public."
So the next time you hear people slam unions and cry about how they have ruined this country or hear the wanna-be Adam Smiths laud the free-market aspects of deregulation, think about these two pilots. Guys who were qualified enough to save 155 lives, who would not recommend anyone follow their career path, because management has been able to slash and burn labor, thanks to the gutting of labor laws in this country.

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