The Air War
It is time for corporations to step up and serve America, and not themselves.
Yeah, the stock market is down, and we’re in a recession. Profits are falling, and the bottom line is being drawn on the floor. But let’s take a few quarters for the home team, all right? Let’s put the country first for a few months and stop bean-counting like crazed Scrooges.
The better corporate America can treat the citizenry, the fewer victories the terrorists will chalk up.
The airline situation is a good example. The Bush administration handed the airlines $15 billion in taxpayer aide and asked nothing in return. Huge mistake, colossal blunder. Most of the airlines have cut personnel resulting in long, tedious lines at the ticket counters and security stations. Wouldn’t it have been better for the airlines to negotiate a temporary cut in pay and keep everybody working? Maybe the unions would have objected, but maybe not. Instead we are seeing chaos at some airports and the continued abuse of the American flier. No customer should have to wait hours to get on a plane.
My experience at Kennedy Airport in New York is typical. I was trying to get to Dallas on a Sunday night. The plane was half full since many Americans are still afraid to fly. Very few ticket agents were working, and the lines moved like Los Angeles traffic. And then, things got worse.
The lines to pass through security were more than an hour long. Why? Because American Airlines had failed to schedule extra security people, and the ones working were frisking nearly everyone. I mean 80-year-old women in orange tracksuits had their hands over their heads. It was unbelievable chaos. My plane left almost two-and-a-half hours late.
Now I’m not whining about this, I am genuinely teed off. I realize air security has to be tightened, but I also believe that some airlines are squeezing a few more bucks in profit by not hiring enough security people. And the folks being punished by this squeezing are the very taxpayers that provided the free federal money the airlines got in the first place.
The next day, I returned to New York. But things were very different at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. There were plenty of American Airlines people working, and all the lines moved quickly and efficiently.
The 80-year-old women in cowboy boots who were frisked were all moved over to the side so those in back of them could proceed. DFW personnel were organized. That made me even madder at the Kennedy people.
Corporate America has to get on the team and on the beam. We are all in this together, and big business has to help out. The president of Starbucks recently had to apologize because a Starbucks store near the World Trade Center actually charged rescue workers for water! Starbucks reimbursed the workers, but I hope the company fired the morons who water gouged in a life-death situation.
And listen to this: The Peak Organization, a job placement firm in Manhattan, laid off a woman named Carrie Gallagher shortly after the attack on The World Trade Center. Are you ready? Ms. Gallagher’s husband Tony was killed in the disaster. Can you believe it? The president of the Peak Organization told The New York Times that he feels “bad” for Carrie.
I am on a mission to publicize bad behavior by corporations in America’s time of need. I resent the fact that some greedy Americans are short-selling the stock market. I don’t like reading about massive layoffs by companies that have huge reserves of cash. U.S. Airways, for example, laid off thousands while its CEO is being paid millions. Hey, pal, take a cut, OK?
The bottom line in the next few months should not be about money. It should be about what’s best for the country. We are at war, and everybody, including the Fortune 500, should make sacrifices. Keep a close eye on who is doing what to whom. Don’t let companies get away with treating you unfairly.
By the way, the people at Kennedy Airport who had to wait in line for hours did so without raising a ruckus. It was almost a miracle. New York is the complaint capital of the world, yet everybody suffered in silence.
The everyday folks know what is going on, and they know what’s at stake for America. It’s time for the corporate types to wise up as well.
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