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Hearing on Legality of Eastern Pilots’ Strike Set

From Associated Press

A judge on Monday ordered a hearing on Eastern Airlines’ attempts to force its pilots back to work. In a related development, sources said former Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci is among those being considered to head the carrier’s reorganization.

At a court conference in Miami, U.S. District Judge Edward B. Davis set a hearing Thursday on a key issue tossed back to him by an appeals court.

The appellate court said Davis must decide if the pilots are merely honoring machinists union picket lines legally, or if they are trying to advance their own cause with their walkout, which could violate the National Railway Labor Act.

“As I see it, I need to make a determination whether refusal to cross the picket line is a ‘pretext,’ ” the judge said.

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The Air Line Pilots Assn. has backed the full hearing, denying that their strike is illegal.

In refusing to cross the picket line, ALPA “certainly considered our parallel interests to strengthen our position to obtain our own collective bargaining interests,” said pilots’ attorney James Linsey. “There is nothing wrong with that.”

Eastern proceeded on another front against the pilots Monday, inaugurating its first six-week training class for replacements for the pilots who walked out with machinists March 4. About 40 people attended the first organizational session, Eastern said.

“I think people are going to be impressed with the qualifications these people have,” said company spokesman Robin Matell. The carrier said many are pilots from other carriers hoping to bump up their seniority by jumping to Eastern.

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Meanwhile, U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee Harold Jones, who is administering Eastern’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in New York, said Monday that he is considering about a dozen candidates for examiner in the complex case.

Jones, who declined to name names, said the ideal examiner would be “someone who can play the role of statesman.”

Sources who requested anonymity said the list includes Carlucci and top securities fraud lawyer Leon Silverman.

Jones said he hopes to decide by late this week or early next week and will recommend that person to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Burton Lifland.

Lifland has said he would appoint an examiner with sweeping powers to try to mediate the bitter dispute between Eastern and its unions. The examiner also will review financial transactions between Eastern, its parent Texas Air Corp. and sister carrier Continental Airlines.

Silverman, a Washington-based securities lawyer who represented some claimants in Manville Corp.'s Chapter 11 proceeding starting in August, 1982, also is one of the lead defense attorneys for imprisoned insider trader Ivan F. Boesky.

Carlucci is now vice chairman and managing director of the Carlyle Group, an investment banking firm in Washington.

Carlucci’s secretary said he was unavailable to comment. Silverman said he wasn’t aware he was on the list.

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