- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Roberta Wood/People's Weekly World
Saturday, May. 21, 2005 at 3:58 AM
CHICAGO — “You might see me coming down the aisle 20 years from now with my walker,” said flight attendant Melissa Madden. Faced with the slashing of their pensions to the tune of .6 billion, she and other United Airlines flight attendants here warn that if United gets away with using bankruptcy to dump its pension obligations, the nation’s entire defined-benefit pension system — and the futures of the 44 million workers it covers — could come tumbling down. Retirement for American workers could become a thing of the past.
In an interview at the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA office near O’Hare Airport, Madden didn’t dwell on the personal crisis brought into her life on May 10 when a bankruptcy judge gave the airline the go-ahead to renege on its debts to 119,000 United employees and retirees. The judge ordered the remaining assets in United’s four pension funds turned over to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which will assume responsibility for United’s pensions.
The daughter of a pilot, Madden left a teaching job to go to work for the airline in 1978. In the 1990s, “I was looking forward to retirement at age 50 with ,300 a month,” she said. United cleared 2 million in net profits in 1995. In 1996, the total surpassed billion. In both 1997 and 1998 it was .3 billion. During those high-profit years, the flight attendants and other unionized workers bargained for benefit packages that included pensions.
Madden said she fulfilled her part of the bargain. “It was a wonderful job,” she said, breaking into a smile. “My parents taught me to be loyal to the company and work hard, and I did. I had a contract that said I would be able to retire without fear of being homeless or not having enough to pay my medical bills.”
But after United stopped reporting profits, employees were hit with two rounds of contract concessions drastically cutting jobs, wages and benefits. Now, after the PBGC takeover, Madden can look forward to only ,130 a month. “I have to rethink my future,” she said. She’s weighing selling her condo, downsizing her life or “leaving the career I love.” But, she worries, “what is the economy like for 50-year-olds?” She also wonders if the PBGC payment will be there if other airlines and businesses with big pension liabilities like General Motors follow suit and dump more pension obligations onto the PBGC.
With billions of dollars going through United’s bank accounts every year, where is the money airline workers earned for the company over the decades?
Madden and union spokesperson Chris Clarke blame inept management and enormous executive bonuses. The bankruptcy process itself is a boondoggle, with law firms set to collect over 0 million.
But economists point to additional systemic problems. Even during the years United was reporting record-breaking profits, the value created by airline workers was being drained off.
Corporations like United are structured to depend on Wall Street finance capital to lend them money for operating cash, said Wadi’h Halabi, an economics columnist for this newspaper. Paying the interest on the debt effectively transfers their profits to the banks that lend the money.
Airlines also make exorbitant payments to lease aircraft from a General Electric subsidiary. The payments show up in GE’s profit columns. “Airlines may be entering their fifth consecutive year of losses,” wrote Business Week, “but for GE, the good times keep rolling.” Creditors like GE can call the shots. They insisted on wage cuts for United’s employees.
Perhaps the greatest rip-off is the skyrocketing price of fuel. Fuel is one of the industry’s major costs. Since neither the cost of drilling nor that of refining has increased, all of these “losses” for airlines are pure profits in the bank vaults of the oil monopolies.
Madden and Clarke see a tie-in between the push to privatize Social Security and the assault on their pensions. “Because we’ve gone to a global economy, once you’ve got that mindset, it’s all about cutting costs, “ said Madden. “It’s an awful race to the bottom.” Clarke added, “Under the Bush administration Wal-Mart philosophy, employees are liabilities, not assets.”
The flight attendants and other airline workers are far from defeated. “There is no more to give,” said Madden, her cheerful face turning stony. She left the interview to hop on a plane to Washington — as a passenger — to join a massive lobbying effort for passage of HR 2327, which would retroactively halt assignment of pension funds to the PBGC for six months. That would allow the flight attendants time to make their case that there is no just cause for their fund to be terminated.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) one of the bill’s authors, warned that unless Congress acts, “All the major carriers will look to the United agreement to see if they can cut their own costs by dumping their workers’ pensions. And after the airlines, other industries will look to do the same thing.”
Report this post as:
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée
The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety
Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man
Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes
Paraphysique de l'autorité
Two Podcasts on fbi corruption
Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS
EPA Head Scott Pruitt: Of Cages And Sirens
More Breaking News...