OLD MR. GREED TAKES CHARGE AT AMERICAN

Tuesday, August 29, 2006   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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It's said that the only constant in our fast-paced world is change. But employees at American Airlines have learned that one thing does not change: top-executives' greed.

I'm a very frequent flier on American – a multimillion-miles man. One major reason is that their front-line people (from clerks to flight attendants to pilots) are overwhelmingly competent, courteous – and helpful when you need it. Indeed, it's this rank & file spirit that saved the corporation from the brink of financial ruin after 9/11, putting it on a successful course to recovery.

In the dark days, top executives and labor agreed to a revival program called "Pull Together/ Win Together." They put the uniting ethic of the common good to work. Employees took billions of dollars in pay cuts and suffered thousands of job losses, and executives agreed that everyone – including them – would get annual raises of only 1 1/2 percent.

In July, however, the executive suite unilaterally decided to abandon the common good and separate their own good fortunes from the well-being of the many. The CEO gave himself a 23 percent pay raise and split millions of dollars in bonuses with the other top brass.

To add insult to injury, American Airlines also created a new "Operational Excellence" program to "reward" pilots and others for their sustained sacrifice. How nice. Do the employees get bonuses, too? Ha! No, their reward is a nifty lapel pin and some good-performance stickers for their kit bags. A corporate vice president sneered at employees who were aghast that management would grab cash for themselves while stiffing the people who literally make the airline run. He said that common workers get upset only "because they don't understand management compensation."

This is Jim Hightower saying... Oh, I think they get it better than you do, Mr. V.P. It boils down to a one-syllable word we all know: greed.

Sources:
"A Message From The President: Things Change, Part 1" www.alliedpilots.org, August 2006.
"A Message From The President: Things Change, Part 2" www.alliedpilots.org, August 2006.
"Pilots' Union President Blasts AMR Chief," Houston Chronicle, August 2, 2006.
"US: Labor Objects to Executive Bonuses at American," Associated Press, January 9, 2006.

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