The Class War in the Air

An up-and-coming pilot with a commuter airline, Rebecka Shaw was paying her dues.

The 24-year-old old lived with her parents near Seattle, Wash., and worked at a coffee shop there on her days off. When the time came for her to fly, she commuted to work at Virginia-based Colgan Air.

As a copilot, she was paid $21 an hour, but only for flying time – not for layovers, typically in the New York area, or her cross-continent commute. She grossed $16,254 in her first year of work.

“I had gone back to visit with her, and she actually shared what she was making. ‘Well, it’s … $1,000 a month, Mom,’ ” said her mother Lynn Morris, in an interview with a Washington news station yesterday. She had visited her daughter during a layover.

Life in the cockpit ‘a recipe for an accident’, JOSH WINGROVE, May 14, 2009

The right wing and their fellow travelers love to accuse working people in unions of being selfish. They are just out for themselves, the logic goes, and if they are allowed to win better benefits and wages we will all suffer. Not surprisingly unions rightfully see this as simplistic nonsense. A better paid teacher, or an auto worker with a good health care, or a nurse with job security, is good, for all of us.

The recent revelations about about Continental’s treatment of Rebecka Shaw is a case in point. In the current political environment corporations have a almost completely free hand in how they treat workers. If you are an executive, you can pay yourself millions of dollars and arrange for a generous severance package if you are fired. You can also risk all of our lives by creating a new cadre of part time pilots.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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