|So I am a lazy bastard. Well, not really, but I feel like a schmuck because I was late for my flight this morning to Leavenworth, so I am stuck here at the airport hoping to get on standby on one of the next 5 flights out today, which all happen to be overbooked. On the one hand, I could really use the time to get some work done here before I meet with the client, so it is actually better that it will be tomorrow before we get together. Really, it is a blessing in disguise and I am not upset at all. I have to get more sugar for this coffee though. Seattle's Best is definitely not the best!|
I am surrounded by so many soldiers here at the airport. I wish I was going with them somewhere. It seems like it is good timing that about 20,000 of them are coming home from Iraq after the elections this week and hopefully many will get to see their families for Christmas.
I wanted to make a brief statement of gratitude to all Delta union employees. By agreeing to even deeper salary cuts, you have saved the airline, and I would personally like to thank you for your sacrifice. I am an Atlanta native, and I remember the terrible difficulty that many of my friend's parents went through in the 80's when, faced with the same situation, Eastern Airlines employees decided to go on strike, forcing the company to fail and many of my buddies' fathers who were pilots were instantly unemployed. The fortunate few that were able to get other piloting jobs had to start over on the seniority and pay scale at their new airlines, most of whom went to Delta. Delta seems to have learned from Eastern's selfish ways, possibly because of the number of pilots that made that mistake already. No matter what, it is better to stay in business than to force a labor strike that shuts down a company. I am a die-hard Delta loyalist. They are my home town company, and I fly them almost every week it seems these days. I have flown on Airtran and others and there is no problem there really, but I just feel loyal to Delta. I want them to survive, and I want be able to fly with them well into the future. There is no doubt that the airline industry will thrive well into the future, they just have to reposition themselves in today's changing market. The huge liability created by legacy costs puts a major drain on their ability to adapt to future market demands, but the willingness of the company and the unions to work together in mutual self interest, gives me hope that they will be around for a while.
This bring me to the topic of labor unions in general. I believe that the labor unions do serve an important role in this country. In the beginning and occasionally these days, companies abuse their employees unjustly and the only way the good people of this country could fight for better working conditions was through the formation of unions and the power of the labor strike. Today, however, many unions seem to be more concerned with maintaining their power than fighting for the true best interest of the employees they represent. This results in fighting for benefits and wages that price American products out of competition and tying the hands of companies from being flexible enough to respond, reducing profitablity and loading up the balance sheets with long term liabilities far in excess of their non-union competitors. This short-sighted and selfish practice makes for unionized firms with reduced returns in the short term that flat-out can't compete in the long term.
Take my grandfather for example. He retired from Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, PA. The company was one of the major producers of steel products for WWII and did a great job helping this country develop the infrastructure to establish itself as the global military power. My grandfather was a steel mill worker after returning from duty in WWII, and he retired on a company pension. Workers from his generation were guaranteed huge pensions and life long health insurance plans. At the time, the unions figured this was fair and equitable. The optimism at the time kept everyone focused on the short term gains and blinded everyone from ever thinking about what would happen if people lived longer and health care costs would rise. I will grant that the company had poor management as well, but the fact remains that Bethlehem Steel does not exist anymore. By the 80's there was something like 1 worker for every 10 retirees, meaning that every single employee had to support the legacy costs of ten people in an ever tightening market faced by international pressure. The margins were impossible to maintain. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother still relied on the dependent's share of his retirement benefit. That check does not come anymore.
I guess I was just trying to point out, that in that case and in the Eastern Airlines case, the labor unions marched the company right out of business. Bethlehem Steel did as well as they could as long as they could, but just couldn't overcome the damage done by the liabilities they created for themselves. Eastern just flat out put the company out of business. Hopefully Delta will not do the same. I have a lot of frequent flyer miles that I would like to use one day, and right now, they rest in the hands of the Delta unions. Strike and Delta will be a thing of the past. Work together, and you still have one dedicated, loyal customer.
Still waiting at the ATL airport,