Picket Line, Balloons and Signs Mark Texas Air Annual Meeting With AM-Texas Air Bjt
HOUSTON (AP) _ About 100 striking Eastern Airlines workers and their supporters picketed parent company Texas Air Corp.’s annual meeting Wednesday, carrying signs and balloons critical of Chairman Frank Lorenzo.
″We hope to get rid of Mr. Lorenzo,″ said Jim Fullerton, of Houston, an Eastern pilot for 25 years and on strike since March. ″I miss flying, definitely, but I’m not going to fly for Mr. Lorenzo’s type of management.
″All we can do is peacefully demonstrate, withhold our services and convince people not to fly (sister carrier) Continental Airlines and get him through his pocketbook.″
Many of the demonstrators had red and black balloons affixed with stickers showing Lorenzo’s name enclosed in a red circle and with a slash mark through it.
The demonstration, outside the elegant Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston where shareholders met, was peaceful and quiet and began breaking up as the mid-afternoon meeting began. Houston police sat in squad cars nearby.
Security at the hotel was tight and similar to measures taken for a presidential visit. Uniformed police were stationed at the entrances to the meeting room while plainclothes security men were obvious elsewhere. People attending the meeting had to pass through metal detectors.
The Machinists union walked out March 9 in the wake of a lengthy contract dispute, and the pilots and flight attendants joined the strike. Eastern is restructuring under bankruptcy court protection as a smaller carrier and has hired hundreds of replacement employees.
″When we come back - not if - this will be the best airline you’ll ever see,″ said Al Glover, a striking machinist who wore a Frank Lorenzo mask and carried a sign proclaiming the Texas Air chairman as ″the most hated man in America.″
Inside the hotel lobby was a handful of working Eastern pilots and flight attendants wearing buttons proclaiming ″Eastern is working, and so are we.″
″We’ve got thick skins, we just ignore them,″ Sue Alfonso, an Eastern agent from Atlanta, said of the demonstrators. ″We’re here to represent Eastern and let everyone know we’re proud to be Eastern.″
″I’ve been in this all the way,″ said Frank Barber, of Miami, a pilot for 23 years. ″My mind was made up from the beginning. My main concern is our airline’s survival.″
He said airline management made the trip to the Houston meeting available to him if he wanted it, but ″nobody told me what to say or do.″
Barber said the picket line Wednesday was no big deal following his experiences earlier this year in Boston, when angry protesters smashed the windows out of an Eastern van. He also said nails had been scattered on the driveway of his home, his phone rings routinely late at night and he ″gets every magazine published″ because subscriptions have been submitted with his name.
″I’ve started to like some of them,″ Barber laughed.