Wednesday, February 27, 2008
For those of you who wonder why American business people resist the unionization of workers, look no further than this story in today's New York Times. It is not the money, but the work rules.
The Air Line Pilots Association cannot even get its own members to agree among themselves on the calculation of seniority between pilots who work for different airlines. It is not that they are struggling mightily to compromise on difficult issues. Rather, they are not even trying to compromise:
Each side, though represented by the same union, pushed seniority arrangements that would have put pilots on the other side toward the bottom of the list. They refused to compromise....
When US Airways and America West merged in the fall of 2005, pilot officials from both sides expressed optimism that seniority could be worked out in a matter of months. But a year of direct talks failed. A mediator in October 2006 could not bring them together. So they entered binding arbitration before a panel led by George Nicolau, an 82-year-old New York arbitrator with experience in seniority disputes.
“All of us on the board kept saying, ‘Sit down, work this through,’ ” Mr. Nicolau said. But he added: “The intransigence worked all the way through. We simply couldn’t shake them.”
The US Airways pilots felt that after two bankruptcies and lost pensions, they needed to make up ground, and so they proposed a list that had 900 or so US Airways pilots atop it and that would have placed some furloughed US Airways pilots above active America West pilots.
The America West pilots, meanwhile, argued that their company saved US Airways from liquidation. So they wanted a list shuffling the two groups together, which essentially ignored date of hire. And they wanted hundreds of US Airways pilots at the bottom of the list so that America West pilots would be insulated from layoffs.
“Neither side blinked,” said Mr. Stephan, the union chief from the US Airways side.
If you read the article, you realize that the union members are among the most churlish people on earth, caring not one wit for labor solidarity but only for their unreasonable position, anybody else be damned. Even that would be just fine if federal labor law did not give them the power to take down two companies on which tens of thousands of other employees and millions of customers depend, but it does.