Flight Attendents Picket TWA Owner’s Estate
Undated (AP) _ Hundreds of Trans World Airlines flight attendants held rallies around the country Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of a bitter strike, while 300 protesters demonstrated near the New York estate of TWA owner Carl Icahn.
The Independent Federation of Flight Attendants called the strike last year to protest TWA’s demand that flight attendants accept hefty cuts in salaries and benefits.
″Carl Icahn never bargained in good faith, but his intention was to force us out on strike and to replace us with a cheaper and younger work force,″ federation spokeswoman Norma Adams said during the two-hour rally at Icahn’s estate in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
In San Francisco, about 300 people attended a peaceful noontime rally at Union Square, while about 700 flight attendants in Los Angeles and 200 in the Chicago area watched a film about the strike.
More than 150 people held a rally in Kansas City, Mo., where they handed out bumper stickers calling for boycotts of TWA flights and sold cookbooks to finance their legal battle.
The union went on strike March 7, 1986, when the company demanded that flight attendants, 85 percent of whom are female with an average seniority of 16 years, accept a 44 percent cut in salaries and benefits while other airline workers faced a 15 percent pay reduction, Adams said.
The union called off the strike after nine weeks, but the airline then challenged an obligation to recall union members in order of seniority. The issue remains in court.
The union also is in the midst of a lawsuit charging TWA with bad-faith bargaining motivated by sex and age discrimination.
The airline has continued flying with 1,300 flight attendants who crossed the picket line and 3,000 new hires.
Icahn has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment.
Mark Buckstein, TWA senior vice president, read a statement at the gates of Icahn’s estate Saturday, saying the airline ″refuses to break its commitment to its new-hire flight attendants. We will not remove them from the work force.″
However, he said the airline plans this year to rehire 600 of the nearly 5,000 flight attendants who walked out and by 1990 plans to offer to put other former employees back on the payroll at lower salaries.
Most of the San Francisco demonstrators showed up in uniform, and union spokeswoman Annamarie French urged them to set up picket lines at San Francisco International Airport and at the downtown TWA offices.
In the Westchester area of Los Angeles, flight attendants gathered in a senior citizens’ center with other labor representatives to watch ″Grounded,″ a half-hour film about the strike.
About 300 flight attendants then staged a one-hour noon march at Los Angeles International Airport. They circled the TWA terminal, chanting ″Boycott TWA″ and handing out flyers.
About 20 attendants still picket there every Saturday.
″What we’re trying to do is make people aware that we’re still here,″ said area coordinator Bonnie Kelchner. ″We are still in there fighting, and we intend to continue fighting. Icahn took our paycheck, our security and everything else, but he didn’t get us.″
Former flight attendants and their supporters gathered in downtown Kansas City for solidarity rally.
″Today is more than an anniversary,″ said local union chairman Jane Hefflinger. ″It’s an affirmation of the steadfast commitment of 5,000 people.″
″It’s been a long fight,″ said William Jolley, a lawyer for the union. ″And it is still a long fight. But that doesn’t make winning any less crucial.″
In Des Plaines, a northwest suburb of Chicago, representatives from the Coalition of Labor Union Women and striking meatpackers at Hormel foods and printers from the Chicago Tribune gave speeches of support.