Eastern Airlines Unions Ask Court To Block Sale To Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An attorney for Eastern Airlines argued in federal court that the unions at Eastern want to stop it ″dead in its tracks″ by blocking the sale of its shuttle operation, while the unions argued the company wants to intimidate the unions.
Both sides began presenting their cases Friday before U.S. District Judge Barrington Parker in the first of six days of hearings on the proposed sale of Eastern’s Northeast shuttle system to real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Eastern and Trump announced in mid-October a $365 million agreement allowing Trump to buy the shuttle, which provides hourly flights between New York and Washington and New York and Boston, and to change the name to the Trump Shuttle.
But three unions representing pilots, mechanics and flight attendants at Eastern filed suit, asking that the sale be blocked on grounds it violates labor laws.
During opening arguments Friday, airline attorney John Gallagher said the unions want Eastern ″stopped dead in its tracks″ in its attempt to make the airline profitable by reducing its size.
″No employees are being forced out of Eastern Airlines,″ he declared. ″All (shuttle employees) can elect to remain at Eastern Airlines.″
But lawyers for the three unions countered that Eastern’s sale of the shuttle, which has been Eastern’s only profitable operation, is part of an overall scheme by parent Texas Air Corp. to dismember the airline.
″This is in fact a liquidation,″ declared Joe Guerrieri, a lawyer for the Machinists union. ″Without the shuttle, there is no way this airline can make it back to profitability.″
James Lindsey, an attorney representing Eastern’s pilots, said the unions intend to show that the sale of the shuttle violates federal laws governing collective bargaining in the airline industry because it is aimed at putting pressure on the unions.
Eastern and the Machinists union are in the midst of bargaining for a new contract.
″The sale of the shuttle is being used as shock treatment,″ said Lindsey.
But Gallagher said the decision to sell the shuttle is not unlike Eastern’s other recent decisions aimed at reducing the airline’s size. In September, Eastern curtailed its flights by 12 percent and eliminated 4,000 jobs.
The airline currently employs about 30,000 people including about 700 who work in the shuttle operation. Trump has said he would like to have the current Eastern employees on the shuttle remain at their jobs.