The "Victory" at Eastern Airlines

January 18, 1991.  A date which will live in Union Infamy.  That is the day that Eastern Airlines expired, with it's last gasps of tortured breath.  That is also the day that the Eastern Employee Unions declared "Victory."  That is the day that they celebrate, the day they "won the war" against Frank Lorenzo.

Ernie Mailhot was a ramp worker and cleaner at Eastern Airlines and a "strike staff coordinator for International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 1018 from December 1989 to December 1990."  He declared the demise of Eastern Airlines to be a "victory" for all union workers everywhere.  

Here are some excerpts, from an article by Mr. Mailhot, which was entitled The Eastern Strike Was a Victory for Workers, copyright (c) 1991 by Pathfinder Press:

After 686 days on strike against Eastern Airlines, rank- and-file members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and our supporters registered the final piece of our victory against the union-busting drive of the employers when the carrier folded at midnight on January 18, 1991.

Eastern strikers from coast to coast, from Puerto Rico to Canada, reacted by calling to congratulate each other and going out to airports to celebrate.

The sign I think expressed our feelings the best was the one at the Miami airport that read, "We said we'd last `One day longer.' ".

When we walked out on March 4, 1989, most of the rank and file of the IAM sensed our strength for the first time. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Local 553 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which organized the flight attendants, also recognized our strength and our fighting determination. They joined our picket lines. The unity we had achieved between the unions and the pilots' association greatly increased our initial strength, and, in turn, our confidence.

The unity of the Machinists, flight attendants, and pilots in a major national strike, over a period of eight and a half months, is something that had not been seen in the airline industry before.

Our slogan became that we would last "one day longer" than Frank Lorenzo. This meant that we would never let Eastern run a profitable airline as long as it operated with scab labor. We knew that by achieving that goal, we would help set an example for every other working person in the United States and internationally - our real family, not the "Eastern family." On April 18, 1990, in a victory for all labor, our slogan became a reality. On that day the federal government, through its bankruptcy court, removed Lorenzo from control of Eastern....

After Lorenzo was removed, our slogan remained "One day longer," but it became "One day longer" than Eastern....

Because of our fight at Eastern, a boss who is considering forcing his workers out on strike so he can break their union and lower their wages and benefits will think a little longer before making such a move.

As important as that is, even more important is the impact we have had on the thinking of working people who are inspired by our fight and will come to follow our example. 

And that is the thinking of the Kamikaze Union leaders.  That is why they deliberately drop bombs on their own ships----Because it is better to destroy jobs, than it is to allow anyone to work of their own free will, without a union contract.  

And that is why I have long said that unions do not create and protect jobs----they destroy them.  

The Flight Attendant and Mechanics unions at United Airlines are now poised to repeat that leap into the Dinosaur Tar Pits, and you can be assured if they do go out on strike----ensuring the total demise of United Airlines----they too will declare that they have won another "Victory for Labor."

Is it any wonder that union membership in the United States has declined from a high of about 32%, in the mid-1950s, to a low of about 8% today, in the private sector?  One can only hope that the unions will keep on "winning" those kinds of victories, since the wealth, size and prosperity of the Great American Middle Class seems to keep growing and expanding in reverse correlation to that decline in union membership.

The Great Success of Deregulation In America.

May, 2005

Robert J. Boser    

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