Jul 5, 2004
On June 29, the government's Air Transportation Stabilization Board (ATSB) turned down United Airlines' application for government loan guarantees, saying that United was in good enough shape to get money from the banks without a government loan guarantee. This admission that United is in a good financial position was ignored by the business press as well as Wall Street. Instead, they all continue to pretend that United will collapse – if it doesn't get further concessions from its work force.
They have justified previous wage and benefit concessions by arguing that United couldn't compete with low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue. False! It wasn't wages and benefits that made those companies so low cost. BEFORE the concessions, ramp workers for Southwest, for example, made essentially the same as workers at United.
But today, it's supposedly the increased oil prices that are the problem. United says it has to pay an extra 750 million dollars this year alone for jet fuel. If it really were true that United could go under because the oil companies inflated their prices, United has a very easy way to reduce its oil costs: get the banks which control United – JP Morgan Chase and Citibank – to reduce these inflated oil costs, since they also control the biggest oil companies. Lee Raymond, on the Board of Directors of JP Morgan Chase, is the CEO of Exxon-Mobil. Kenneth Derr, on the Board of Citibank, was the CEO of Chevron Corp. And United itself has a director who was on the board of BPAmoco. These big companies and banks are all tied together. A very few financial groupings control almost all the economy today – through direct ownership, financial control and links between companies' boards of directors.
The interest of the banks, of United, and of all corporations, is not to reduce their profits by reducing oil profits. No, they want the workers to make further concessions – which will increase their profits.
Immediately after the ATSB turned down United's request, a propaganda barrage began from journalists, commentators, stockbrokers and bankers, saying that if United can't survive, the workers would have to make concessions, maybe as big as they gave up before. These well-off scribblers and wealthy thieves suggested that United could begin by reducing its pension fund – it could freeze pension benefits at current levels or even just terminate the plans, dumping them into the hands of the government.
This would be round two of concessions by United. USAir workers have already given concessions two times and now the company is demanding a third round of concessions.
When flight attendants and other United workers were offered early retirement packages as part of a massive reduction in the number of workers, they were told they wouldn't have to pay for retiree health. But just a month ago United got the unions to agree to have the 27,000 retirees pay an average of $1,852 a year in health care costs out of their own pockets.
The demands of these companies for concessions is nothing but an outright mugging. And just like the worst neighborhood hoodlum, these companies will come back to rob you again if you open your door to them once. If United workers are to protect their interests, they need to slam the door in the big thieves' face before the thieves get any bolder. Refusing to give any more concessions would be a good way to do it.