Picket Line, Balloons and Signs Mark Texas Air Annual Meeting With PM-Texas Air, Bjt
HOUSTON (AP) _ About 100 striking Eastern Airlines pilots, flight attendants, Machinists union members and their supporters picketed parent company Texas Air Corp.’s annual meeting, 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 Wednesday held red and black balloons affixed with stickers showing Lorenzo’s name enclosed in a red circle and with a slash mark through it.
″Black is for mourning,″ pilot Charles Glass said.
″Red is for the blood being sucked out of the company,″ added fellow pilot Darren Patterson.
The demonstration, outside the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston, site of the meeting, was peaceful and began breaking up as the mid-afternoon stockholders gathering began. Police sat in squad cars nearby.
Security at the hotel was extremely tight and similar to measures taken when the president visits. Uniformed police were stationed at the entrances to the meeting room while plainclothes security men were obvious elsewhere. All people attending the meeting were required to pass through metal detectors.
″Management will never acknowledge they’re the problem,″ Lyn Williams of Annapolis, Md., an 18-year Eastern pilot, said while walking the picket line. ″The airline industry deserves better and the flying public deserves better.″
″When we come back - not if - this will be the best airline you’ll ever see,″ added 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.″
Glover, who said he fueled planes for 10 years before he went on strike, said he walked out in March after the company demanded his $14.79-per-hour pay be cut by more than half.
″We’re still in this fight and we still have support,″ said Kathleen Tipton, a 25-year flight attendant. ″We don’t like going through this but we’ll recover.″
While those on the picket line marched outside, a handful of working Eastern pilots and flight attendants - wearing buttons proclaiming ″Eastern is working, and so are we″ - were stationed in the hotel lobby.
″We’ve got thick skins, we just ignore them,″ said Sue Alfonso, an Eastern agent from Atlanta. ″We’re here to represent Eastern and let everyone know we’re proud to be Eastern.″
″I’ve been in this all the way,″ added Frank Barber of Miami, a pilot for 23 years. ″My main concern is our airline’s survival. Now we’re up to 601 flights a day and that’s a far cry from March.″
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.″
However, Barber said, his loyalty has not been free of consequences. He said said nails have been scattered on his driveway, his phone rings routinely late at night and he ″gets every magazine published″ because subscription forms have been submitted in his name.
″I’ve started to like some of them,″ he laughed.