American Airline Pilots' Slowdown Wins a Victory, Despite What You Read in the DMN

Mitchell Schnurman is a really good business reporter. The Dallas Morning News scored a major coup recently when it hired him away from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He's an ace, the author of serial scoops on airline industry management.

But as we see again in today's paper, Schnurman is strangely obtuse when he starts handing out moral advice to the rank and file. Schnurman posts yet another in what is fast becoming a regular series of preachy epistles to the pilots union, scolding them for their rogue slowdown action at American Airlines.

He says, "The negative publicity couldn't be much worse, as cancellations made national and local headlines. ... Plenty of pilots who are doing their jobs must be embarrassed, too. They often talk about getting the respect they deserve, especially from management, but these tactics put their interests ahead of everyone else's."

Funny. For all this finger-wagging and tch-tching in the paper this morning, I still don't see the real story about American Airlines. I am scouring my very expensive print version of the paper. Nope. Not there. I go back over the web page as well, navigating around the "Ask Mitch Manners" column to look for some news.

No. Not there, either. Maybe they'll move themselves to get it up by the time my item gets posted on Unfair Park.

So as a last resort I go to my usual source for big Dallas business stories that the local paper doesn't like: The Christian Science Monitor. Sure. There it is, big and bold! I thought I saw that mentioned on TV just before the lights went out in my head last night: Management at American has agreed to go back to the bargaining table with the pilots!

That's the real story today. That's the news. The headline at the top of the front page of any honest morning paper in this town today should be: IT WORKED!

Damn straight. By dragging the company out to the edge of the cliff -- and only by that! -- the pilots have been able to push a stubborn management team off its arrogant dime. Management was determined to cover its own incompetence with blood drained from the pilots' contract. The pilots showed them that the blood would be their own.

Is that really how it's done? Do you really threaten to harm the company if they won't talk? Do you really threaten to shut it down? Of course you do! How in the hell do we think labor ever got management to talk in the first place?

The labor movement and unions in this country have weakened to the point of near extinction in the last 20 years because union members have lost the courage and resolve that the American Airlines pilots found again in this dispute.

It ain't tiddlywinks. Americans were able to form unions and fight for decent pay in the first place only because workers weren't afraid of an ultimate shootout. They had the courage to go out to that line and face the management goons sent there to beat and even kill them, if that's what it took.

Maybe it's time for working and middle class Americans to stop bitching about the plague of income disparity gnawing at the very fiber of our society. Maybe it's time people remembered that in this world you get what you're willing to fight for.

Not take. Not steal. Fight for. An honest day's wages for an honest day's work. And when management, acting under Wall Street rules, tries to turn that principle on its head -- comes up with a plan by which the CEO gets a larcenous bonus for doing a lousy job while labor gets the shaft -- then, yes, labor has to be ready to toe that ultimate line.

In today's America on any given day, it can seem like management has all the tricks and the ammo. They rewrite the laws themselves. They stack the courts with cronies. And they fill their newspapers with propaganda.

But as the American Airlines pilots have reminded us, labor always has the ultimate weapon. The one leverage. The last resort.

Shut it down.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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