So United Airlines recently declared bankruptcy, which is not surprising given the generally poor fiscal state of most American air carriers. The company also recently decided that it had to default on $9 billion of pension obligations [washingtonpost.com– try bugmenot.com for a registration], which will affect 120,000 employees and retirees. I understand that when a company is in such severe financial straits, there comes a place where you have to take a step as drastic as that. If there isn’t the money, there isn’t the money. But I don’t understand what United’s CEO says later in the same article:
Last week, United Chief Executive Officer Glenn Tilton testified to the Senate Finance Committee about $4.5 million he is receiving from United to replace benefits he had accrued over a 32-year career at Texaco, his previous employer. Tilton said that the default will not affect the payment, and that he has $1.5 million left to collect. He said this does not represent a double standard because United promised him the money in his contract.
This guy is a jackass. Of the highest order. He’s a multi-millionaire. He runs a company whose 80-year-old retirees are now applying for jobs at Wal-Mart to make ends meet, and demonstrating by his actions that his own $4.5 million is more important than the retirement benefits of his employees. True, maybe a few million dollars wouldn’t stave off a pension default for long, but nonetheless it points quite clearly where his true loyalties lie.
I fly to Chicago for work on a fairly regular basis. Since O’Hare is a United hub, they are almost always the cheapest, and about two years back I got a frequent flyer account to take advantages of the regular trips. But now, I feel sick about this. I don’t know if I can patronize a company run by a man who acts like this, who insists on being overpaid even when his company is screwing over the people who were most loyal to it. I think I’m going to cut up my frequent flyer card and mail it to Mr. Tilton. This makes me so angry I’m having trouble finding the words.