Local Eastern Airlines employees, angry and frustrated by the confusion and uncertainty that the airline's bankruptcy has caused, have elected a committee to find some answers. The committee was meeting with a local bankruptcy attorney Tuesday.
Organizing the non-union employees was suggested by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, who met with about 200 laid-off Eastern employees Monday to supposedly answer questions.However, because many of the questions focused on the non-union workers' status in bankruptcy court and required a legal opinion, Owens and other officials had few answers.
Bouncing and swaying to calm his 4-month-old daughter, Steve Goodman, a reservations agent, was somewhat frustrated but not surprised by the lack of information. "I came here hoping we would get organized," he said.
Acknowledging that the meeting was offering little in substance, Owens recommended the workers elect representatives to meet with a bankruptcy attorney. He said his staff had lined up attorney Peter Billings to provide free advice to the committee the next day.
Those attending the meeting unanimously elected Judy Murphy, Perry Sloan and Kelly Green as representatives for the local non-union employees.
About 600 employees at Eastern's Salt Lake Reservation Center were put on indefinite non-work status March 6 after the airline's machinists went on strike and the pilots honored the picket line. Crippled by the strike, Eastern filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy three days later, freezing the airline's assets, and final paychecks to its Utah employees subsequently bounced.
Owens said his office has been told by the Department of Transportation that the uncovered checks resulted from an administrative error and new checks would be cut and mailed. But, Owens said he didn't know when that would happen.
Two Utah-based Eastern pilots opened the session telling the non-union employees that the airline would have had to stop operations soon with or without a strike, but that now labor has management in a corner from which it can't escape.
But those crammed into the Department of Natural Resources auditorium showed little appreciation for the union's efforts, shouting and mumbling among themselves that the actions of highly paid union workers had resulted in their unemployment and uncertain future.
"When did we get our say in the matter," called out one employee.