Labor rallies boosted the spirits of striking Eastern Airlines workers Saturday while the struggling carrier continued to attract travelers “like gangbusters” to its bargain Northeast shuttle.
Aircraft were again reported flying near capacity on the second day of $12 fares on the Northeast shuttle linking New York with Washington and Boston, once Eastern’s most profitable service. The pre-strike fare was $99.
“The shuttle’s going like gangbusters,” said Eastern spokesman Robin Matell. “This ($12 fare) has just created a tremendous groundswell of interest in traveling between the cities.”
Meanwhile, corporate shuffling by Eastern parent Texas Air Corp. continued as Eastern Express, a non-union commuter carrier that fed Eastern flights, was renamed Continental Express. Non-union Continental Airlines, another Texas Air company, has picked up some Eastern routes since the strike began March 4.
Picketing continued at airports in Miami, New York, Washington and other cities.
At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson joined machinists, pilots and flight attendants on picket lines for about 10 minutes, donning pilot caps, shaking hands and kissing babies. About 1,000 people attended a related rally.
“I intend to march until victory is won,” said Jackson, who got a rousing reaction Thursday from Eastern strikers in Miami. “I don’t know of any airplanes that fly in reverse.”
Ed Weiss, an Eastern pilot for 10 years, was among about 200 people who linked hands along the main service road at the Greater Buffalo (N.Y.) International Airport in a gesture of labor unity.
‘We Will Prevail’
“We’re out to show the public that we are firm and standing strong and we will prevail,” Weiss said.
The AFL-CIO announced Saturday in Washington the establishment of a relief fund to help union members at Eastern and said it reached $250,000 almost immediately. It started with an AFL-CIO contribution of $100,000, followed by $50,000 from the United Auto Workers and $100,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
In Miami, striking employees were joined by their families for picket duty at Eastern headquarters, and a food drive was organized for union members who are ineligible for unemployment under Florida law because they went on strike rather than agree to contract concessions.
Children on Picket Lines
“I know some people are really hurting as far as paychecks, but we all knew this was going to happen,” said mechanic Les Davison, picketing with his 6-year-old daughter, Christina, who sported an anti-Frank Lorenzo sticker targeting Texas Air’s chairman on her frilly pink dress.
Terry Cullen, a veteran flight attendant picketing with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, said their creditors have been understanding.
“Almost everybody I’ve talked to when they hear Eastern says we’ll sit down and work with you,” Cullen said.