February 4, 2012
American Airlines, with over $4 billion in cash on hand, has pulled the same tired trick of many airlines and corporations over the last decade by trying to shed its employee and pension obligations to cover for years of gross mismanagement. Despite rising fees across the board for all airlines and give-backs from all unions involved with American - it is never enough for those at the top. When you compare decent unionized airline wages to the slave level compensation paid to non-union regional airline employees - in the range of $80 for a twelve hour shift (since travel time to and from the flying hub is not considered work time), the big three can't help but use any trick in the book to dump their contractual obligations to organized union employees. Bankruptcy, especially a planned effort like American's, allows the company to shed pensions, union employees, in fact make almost any move it wants and can convince a bankruptcy judge to be necessary for their survival. Since many of these judges come from pro-business backgrounds - this has not been much of a struggle.
In this particular case American has paid but $6.5 million of a $91 million bill towards its employees defined benefit plans. American claims this is a perfectly legitimate payment considering the circumstances. As for the $4 billion cash on hand? Seems this is needed for "restructuring," whatever the heck that means.
The good news here is that the Obama Administration has a very savvy head of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation - PBGC - which makes sure that workers who were promised pensions by an established contract - should get as much of those pensions before the greedy 1%ers slink off into the night with those retirees' hard earned savings. Joshua Gotbaum - son of famed NYC union leader Victor Gotbaum and a real powerhouse in his own right - has already slapped liens on $91 million of AA's Latin American operations. Those assets - this is so great! - are outside the protection of American's U.S. bankruptcy filing. So finally, FINALLY! somebody in our elected government is telling these type of sleazy corporate shysters that they will not get a free pass in their middle-class destroying, family destroying efforts. It's about time.