Susanne Garlick deposited her last paycheck in the bank last week, then promptly spent the money.
Unfortunately, the West Jordan woman's check bore the name of her former employer, Eastern Airlines. This week, banking officials say the last checks that Eastern cut its employees are part of the assets frozen when the airline filed for Chapter 11 reorganization protection.In additional Eastern reorganization news, Salt Lake Airport Director Lou Miller said Thursday he will file a motion in bankruptcy court to compel Eastern to confirm or reject the lease agreement for the Salt Lake reservation center.
About 590 Eastern employees in Salt Lake City and 6,000 employees nationwide have been on "no work" status since March 6.
"It's not where they cashed the check that counts," said Daniel Croon, senior vice president for Eastern Airlines Federal Credit Union. "It's not when they cashed the check. It's the financial institution the checks are written on that counts."
George Owen, spokesman for Southeast Bank in Miami, confirmed Thursday that any checks written on Eastern accounts at his bank before the bankruptcy was filed cannot be honored "unless we have a court order."
The Eastern credit union is financially insured and is a totally separate corporation from the airline although many airline employees bank there, Croon stressed.
Garlick's check was for $200, and her former company also owes her another $160. "I've already spent the money, just like everyone else I talked to," she said. "That's what makes it hard."
Garlick said she is disappointed Eastern officials weren't more honest when they handed out the checks.
"I can't believe how loyal we were," she said. "I was willing to make any sacrifice I had to make to keep our company going.
"It's just insulting to be working there, making all these sacrifices and keeping our morale up, and then they don't show it back to us."
Chris Forbes, a former reservationist, said she has heard from colleagues that checks are bouncing right and left. The status of her own check is still up in the air, according to officials at her bank. "Mine hasn't technically bounced. But they didn't sound real good about it when I talked to them yesterday.
Miller said he is sure Eastern will confirm the $285,000 annual lease agreement for the 39,000 square-foot Salt Lake airport building. The company was current in its payments to the Salt Lake airport before it filed for reorganization.
"If they confirm the agreement, that means they have to pay us and keep it current," Miller said. "If they reject the agreement, that means they must vacate the facility immediately and remove whatever equipment is there."
If Eastern rejects its lease, airport officials will market the building to other airlines in an effort to keep the center open and retain the 600 telemarketing jobs in Salt Lake City.