Strange Apparatus

Nobody noticed the difference in the readout, the sadness in the answer, a twist in the logic.

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Location: The Friendly Skies, United States

Monday, July 11, 2005



Tomorrow United’s Machinist union, which includes customer contact employees like Reservationists, will be voting on accepting United’s most recent offer. Actually, I shouldn’t use the word offer since it implies a mutually beneficial agreement – it isn’t. Let me rephrase. They will be deciding on whether they will take another round of cuts. Most likely they will vote begrudgingly to take the cuts, wage and benefits, work rules, and vacation and holidays.

Yes, CEO Glenn Tilton still has a guaranteed retirement package of 4.5 Million and still gets bonuses and still makes up to ten times what his employees make. And through all of this United is still in bankruptcy and keeps pushing back the estimated time of rising from bankruptcy. While Glenn Tilton has the security of a guaranteed pension and severance package United employees still don’t know what is around the next corner – they are not free from layoffs or liquidation, or for that matter more cuts.

I keep thinking that United employees suffer from battered worker syndrome. They keep being made to feel they aren’t good enough, important enough or worthy of attention. They keep being beaten and are made to feel that they deserve it and should keep taking the abuse. They are made to feel that yes they should sacrifice while their management does not make serious sacrifices. Again, United workers have proven that they can work harder and harder for less and less but United’s CEO and management fail miserably at getting their job done.


Thursday, June 16, 2005



Just before tomorrows bankruptcy court hearing and a hopeful conclusion to recent labor turmoil there is news that there are wolves at the door of United Airlines. The news came last week that there are several “investor consortiums” interested in United. More interesting is that former CEO Gerald Greenwald leads one of the consortiums. Greenwald was responsible for leading United into employee ownership (ESOP).

United is no longer employee owned since their stock was sold while it was tanking – a big loss for United employees. Not only did they lose a great amount of money, they also lost the little power they had as majority holders. ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Program) came about in 1994 when United was in financial turmoil and they had to ask their employees for cuts. The result of those cuts was “ownership” (and I stress the quotes) of the company. United employees took severe cuts to save the airline and took ownership to have a vested interest in their company.

Senior employees at United have taken their knocks and then some. They have seen CEOs who had no long term interest in United come and go but profit none the less while they have taken one concession after another. Each CEO has asked employees for the same two things, loyalty and givebacks, when they themselves gave neither.

Now Gerald Greenwald stands outside the door baying at the full moon. If he couldn’t succeed during his first tenure as CEO how could he and others think he could do it this time and under much harsher circumstances? Or, would he be buying to liquidate?

When the hammer comes down will you still be around?

Sunday, May 29, 2005



I find it amazing that the American worker is held to such high standards while their management escapes the standards they have put in place. How many times have we heard of CEOs and other top management making high salaries and bonuses while the company they run has suffered? How many times did our own president fail in business but profit monetarily while the workers of those companies went home without jobs? What management skills are the managers using?

United holds their reservationists to certain productivity standards. The reservationists are expected to achieve 100% productivity otherwise they can be put on “occasion”. They are expected to have no time in between calls though they still need to finish up more work related to making a reservation after the call is finished. The only way to keep 100% productivity is by keeping the customer on the line while they finish up the reservation, though the customer is no longer needed to be on the phone. Why waste the customer’s time if they are no longer needed?

A reservationist’s work is basically a sales oriented position; they are selling you an airline ticket. Not all phone calls result in sales, sometimes the customer still needs time to think the purchase out or other variables. As long as a reservationist abides by having little or no time between calls they are meeting the productivity goals, regardless of sales. One reservationist can have no time in between calls, but no sales, but meet expectations. Another reservationist can have too much time in between calls, but have high sales, but be put on “occasion”. This is where management fails; this is where United fails to see what they need to do. It is all about sales not productivity. How can we expect United’s management to get their company out of bankruptcy if they fail to see some of the simplest details?

Many companies hire top management not from within their ranks but from the outside. Sometimes the reasoning is that someone from outside would bring fresh perspective. But if that perspective has no base in that industry it will fail more times than not. Having been top management in the oil industry doesn’t mean they can translate their knowledge to an airline.

Just because you had a dog before doesn’t mean you’ll be able to take care of a cat.

Friday, May 27, 2005



The American worker is familiar with the carrot poised in front of them - incentive. In many workplaces this amounts to free coffee, donuts and a yearly company party. United used to have a company party at their world headquarters for their employees. When United started to go through bankruptcy they stopped having their company party, they cited that it was because of the bankruptcy.

Removing a carrot is understandable in hard times. Most of us have gone through a hard stretch at one time or another and have had to cut back. American workers are not unfamiliar with tightening the belt and working harder. United management feels the tightening should only be done by the rank and file. CEO Glenn Tilton and other managers have received bonuses while United has been going through bankruptcy. Why did they receive bonuses? Because of the hard work and sacrifices of the United employees. United workers have made United one of the best “on time” airlines and one of the most productive.

Corporate entities in America keep bashing the American worker telling us we are not productive enough to compete. They have moved operations to other countries in hope of higher productivity and lower wages. United expects reservationists, customer contact employees, to meet a goal of 100% productivity. Lower than 95% productivity can endanger an employee’s job. United’s reservationists meet or exceed these goals. Could we say this of the mangers who have continually failed in their goal of resurfacing from bankruptcy? Do they hold their selves up to the same standards they do of their employees?

Why has the American worker taken less and given more while CEOs are making more money than they ever have? Why is the gap between CEO pay and the average workers pay widening by the minute? Why are some companies cutting pay and benefits of workers while they are still making profits? Why do we see United airlines trying to take their employees pension away while CEO Glenn Tilton has a guaranteed pension of 4.5 Million?

You cannot starve the ox and still expect it to plow the field.

Thursday, May 19, 2005



United and the union representing reservationists are still in the progress of negotiating the further surrender of the workers livelihood. United’s Jack Bruce has already threatened the workers with disciplinary measures, most likely being fired, and had said that a strike would be illegal.

It is a sorry situation that workers taking some power upon their selves would be looked upon as an illegal measure. What does the average worker have if not their own volition? Though this is not the first shot, it has been going on for years now; the American worker is under siege from those who see workers as nothing but equipment.

The reservationists are being asked to take a similar cut the pilots union took. Pilots make six figure incomes and much of the rest of United’s workers make at best a forth of that. The pilots also still have one of their two pensions, the other workers will watch their sole pension disappear. Don’t forget that corporate managers like Jack Bruce and CEO Glenn Tilton will still make millions of dollars and receive bonuses while their workers reel backwards.

As much as people feel animosity towards unions and what they represent they forget what the American worker has gotten from unions. Those belonging to unions and those who have never been in unions both have benefited from what unions have fought for decades. Can we imagine working for more than eight hours without compensation, could we imagine working without breaks or lunch? Could we imagine working along side child workers?

Should we be surprised by how the American worker is treated these days? Our own government fails to help those who have fought for our country. Not only are there veterans of past wars who struggle to receive what is owed to them we now have recent vets of Iraq who suffer with little or no help. While they fight for what President Bush describes as freedom their fellow soldiers return to what? A Veterans Administration that is bogged down in ineptness and red tape.

Bush said while he was running for his first term that he wanted to be the CEO president. I guess he accomplished that goal.

What happened to the government by and for the people that our forefathers saw?

What happened to the employee owned United?

Monday, May 16, 2005



Let's just do the math this time.

UAL Corp., United Airlines, CEO Glenn Tilton received cash compensation (salary and bonus’) of U.S. $1,123,225 in 2004. That is $540 per hour. Reservationists at United start at less than $9 per hour. Mr. Tilton makes 60 times more than a worker he feels needs to make reasonable sacrifices. Senior reservationists, people who have been with the company many more years than Mr. Tilton, make less than $18 per hour. He makes 30 times more than they do and they have invested their lives into the job far more than he has. Mr. Tilton has a severance package that would net him more than $5.4 million along with a guaranteed pension of $4.5 million.

He initially got a signing bonus of several million when he took the job as CEO. He was already well ahead of his workers in compensation from the start.

UAL Corp. CEO Glenn Tilton feels his workers make too much and need to make more sacrifices. United Airlines wants to void all contracts with their workers and cut severely their livelihood.

United must be flying to other planets since its demands are out of this world.



This past week, as well as over the past few years, United airlines has successfully taken much of the incentive away from their workers. They have asked for, and gotten, repeated concessions from the workers. The workers have watched their pay cut numerous times and their benefits taken away or lessened. United management this past week went to court to take away the workers future, their pension.

Bankruptcy calls for hard measures and the workers have known they would have to make hard sacrifices. They know that it would keep the company going, and hopefully to a successful ending. The only thing the workers expected from the management of United was a fair shake. They expected everyone to make sacrifices.

United’s CEO recently claimed he would also sacrifice, he would take a pay cut along with his rank and file workers, he only failed to mention that he also got a bonus which negated that cut. In fact, he came out from his cut with more money than he started with. How is that a sacrifice?

United’s workers are expected to meet work goals, which they do, but their bonus is keeping a job. Keeping a job that they keep getting paid less and less for. United’s management has received bonus’ which exceed what the average worker would make over many years. United’s management has repeatedly failed to meet their goal of getting out of bankruptcy.

The workers pension has turned into the proverbial last straw, what more can the workers sacrifice? Unlike the average worker United’s CEO has a guaranteed pension of 4.5 Million, other management also have guaranteed pensions in the same neighborhood. When does management’s sacrifice begin?

While all of this goes forward United fails to negotiate in good faith. They still want to take more from their workers! They are trying to void all of their contracts with the various unions. They are not negotiating they are waging war. United says they will fire striking workers, they also say they have contingencies set up for that instance. India I presume, since they have already started outsourcing there, as well as expanding other out sourcing within the US, Canada and Mexico.

Why should any of us care? We should care very much because, not just other airlines are watching what is going on with United’s dismantling of their agreements with their workers (whatever happened to the owner airline they claimed to be once?), but other corporations are watching too. If United succeeds in breaking their workers this will reverberate throughout the US. Watch for pensions, which are already a dying breed, to disappear one by one. Watch what we all have worked hard for to disappear.

We are fast becoming what once was thought to be what only happened in third world countries. Our government is at least being negligent by sitting back and doing nothing to stop the raping of the American worker. United’s CEO is not alone in his greed while others suffer. Instead our government is enacting policy that continually steps on the American worker.

Corporate American wants a government that is hands off on restrictions but is hands on when doling out tax incentives. Our government has helped foster an atmosphere that is pro-business and anti-worker. We are living in a country that has corporate officers getting bonus’ that exceed their own salaries by many times while the average American worker is having to work harder for less.

Michael Douglas’ character in the movie Wall Street said, “Greed is good,” many have now decided to follow this credo. Ethics and morals have vanished from business. Instead, those qualities are seen as weaknesses. Why hasn’t the Christian right squawked about those values? I have a feeling the lack of those values affect the general public in a far greater way than gay marriage does.

The sad thing is we have failed to progress in this country. We have a better chance than many countries to cut poverty but it seems to be easier for us to help the poor in other countries than it is to recognize that we have people in this country who need our help as well. There is no excuse for unemployment and poverty in this country when we have people who accumulate vast wealth doing close to nothing or nothing at all.

The workers at United are not fighting for more money, they are fighting to keep what they are seeing slip quickly through their hands. It is not greed or irresponsibility on the part of the workers, they are trying to live the American dream or what once was the American dream. Now we have corporate management that feels that they should be compensated perversely by the millions of dollars – the new American dream.

Friendly skies, maybe. Friendly workplace, no!

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Obscure references to Godley & Creme.