Mike Flynn Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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MATT MUNSON: I guess I could -- I don't know if you want this date on there, but I'll go put it on there. Can you see the red record?


MUNSON: Look for it before you start, and I think that's it.

LAPORTE: We're ready to go. All right. Good morning. Today is December the 13, 2010. This is an oral history interview with Mr. Mike Flynn. Mike Flynn is the director of occupational safety and health and apprenticeship training for the International Association of Machinists. Mr. Flynn works out of the IAM headquarters in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Today's interview is part of the Voices of Labor Oral History Project that is directed by the Southern Labor Archives at the Special Collections Department at Georgia State University. It is part of the Georgia State University Library. The interview is being 1:00conducted by Philip LaPorte, director of the Labor Studies Program in the College of Law at Georgia State University. Financial support for the Voices of Labor Oral History Project come from the Joseph Jacobs Fund and the Georgia State AF of L CIO Labor Awards Committee. Mike, good morning to you. It's a pleasure to have you here at Georgia State University. I want to begin by asking where you were born. What was your birthplace?

MIKE FLYNN: My birthplace was in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. I lived there for about 19 years prior to moving to Miami, Florida.

LAPORTE: What about your parents, Mike? What did they do, your mom and dad?

FLYNN: My mom immigrated into this country from Ireland when she was two years 2:00old. My father is a second-generation Irish. My father was a supervisor for American Airlines at Washington National Airport, and my mom stayed at home and raised my nine brothers and sisters.

LAPORTE: All right, very good. So, in terms of schooling, growing up in northern Virginia, did you attend public schools there?

FLYNN: I attended parochial schools up until the eighth grade, and then went into the public school in high school.

LAPORTE: Was it the Jesuits, the Sisters of Mercy, the Benedictines?

FLYNN: It was the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Cherry Hill, North Carolina -- or north -- New Jersey.

LAPORTE: So you completed high school, and then what was your first job in your working career?


FLYNN: Well, I worked all through high school. It was at a time when you turned 15, you worked. If you wanted a pair of Levis or you wanted a pair of Converse sneakers, in our family, you worked. Money was tight. We didn't really want for anything, but we had everything we needed, but anything extra, we worked. So I had a numerous amount of jobs through my high school in the summer and after school, whether it was construction, working in the mall, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers. The whole gambit, as one can do when they're in the teenage years.

LAPORTE: Then, after those jobs, after you'd graduated from high school, what did you do then? Was there a career pursuit? Technical training?


FLYNN: Well, initially, I recall - now this was in 1972, and I had determined -- well, I think I wanted -- the end of the draft was coming about. But I still had an interest in aircraft, so I decided, well, I would go sign up, voluntarily, for the U.S. Air Force. Now, I met with a recruiter, and they sent me -- this was while I was still in school, and they had a program where you could do all the preliminaries, and then once you graduated, you would go right into your service. I went to Baltimore and did the testing. One thing it did show, I was a little borderline high blood pressure. So they said, "Well, you have to stay over the night, and we'll retest you. It's not an uncommon thing. Nervousness and that. Everything will be fine. We'll swear you in, and then you would report in July." Well, by the end of the night, I was -- convinced myself, well, I 5:00don't think I want to go this route, for whatever reason and I went back home. A few months later, I got a job with Eastern Airlines, and I just went right into -- started working at Washington National Airport for Eastern Airlines, working as a helper on the ground crews.

LAPORTE: That was in 1972?

FLYNN: That was in October of 1972. I was 18 years old.

LAPORTE: What were your duties there as a helper with the ground crew?

FLYNN: Well, the duties were pretty much to keep the foreign objects, debris, off the ground around the gates, because the airline -- the engines have a tendency to suck up anything that's not tied down, and it could create large engine problems and that. So they had a crew that would take care of that. Just kind of general utility duties around the airline -airplanes -- and the ramp.


LAPORTE: And was that position, as a grounds crew helper, was that a bargaining unit job?

FLYNN: That was, and it was a very -- my very first experience with a union job. And I was totally unaware of union. My father, as his job within American Airlines, was not a union job. I heard discussions. I know one of my uncles was a teamster with Hostess, and I used to hear him talk about his good pensions and that he got from that. My father, I recall some conversations, when one of the unions -- it might have been TWU -- they were trying to organize his group. But beyond that, I had really very little interaction or understanding of what the 7:00union was about. Now, very early -- it would be within a month that I hired that the flight attendants at the time were threatening to strike. And I remember sitting in the break room and talking to a couple guys, the old-timers, about what's this thing about the strike? They said, "Well, when they strike, we walk out." "What do you mean we walk out?" "We walk out and support them." "Do they pay us?" "No, they don't pay you." "Well, why would I want to do that, then?" And they said, "Well, son, you'll want to do that because, one day, you may want them to walk out for you." Well, they came to an agreement at the eleventh hour. We never needed to walk out, but I got somewhat my first taste of, well, that 8:00was what collective unionism was about. They were sticking with one another. And even shortly after that, there was a few times I was late to work, and my boss would want to talk to me, and he would tell me, "Before you can come in, you need to bring a union steward with you." So that was my first introduction to the union steward. That -- and he was more like a Dutch uncle, just kind of, "Here's the basic rules you need to follow. I'll help you along the way." He said, "We're here to protect your rights, but you -- one thing they need you to do, be here on time. If you're not going to be here, there's a process to call in." So I started getting the -- somewhat the understanding of a union as being a good big brother. I was young and green-horned in the shop at the time.


LAPORTE: And so that right of representation was in the contract, and you had direct experience with a union steward serving as an advisor that assisted you in understanding both your rights under the contract and your responsibilities to your employer. Is that a fair assessment?

FLYNN: Exactly.

LAPORTE: How long did you stay as a grounds crew helper at Washington National Airport?

FLYNN: Well, this is -- this was a -- somewhat of a fluke how this happened, but I was -- it was in February of 1973. Now, whenever a new job opened throughout the system, it had to be posted. So there was a posting for six lead -- I think 10:00the title was lead laborers, which was my classification. Now, what -- and this was -- this was six openings in Miami. They built a new hangar for that -- [10, 11?]. And these were rotating shifts. So again, I went back to the union. I said, "Well, what's this about?" They said, "Well, don't worry about it. You don't have enough seniority." I said, "Well, what's it about?" So they said, "Well" -- he said, "When" -- they had built this new building. They determined they were going to need -- or the shop laborers. That was the name of the classification. They were going to need six lead shop laborers to run the crews there. So he said, "But guys with 25, 30 years seniority, they're the ones that are going to get it." I said, "Well, it can't hurt. I could put in for it." "Oh 11:00yeah, you can put in for it." So I put in for it. Well, I received the award. And I received it because it was a rotating shift, and the old-timers, they didn't want the rotating shifts. They were in a part of their life where they wanted Saturdays and Sundays off, and the younger guys in between, they didn't think they had a chance for it. So here I am, still -- I hadn't yet turned 18 -- 19 -- and I get my paperwork to transfer to Miami to run a crew of six guys that swept up the hangar. That took care of the hangar when the planes came in and went out. So I was -- I put everything I owned in a Pinto and drove down to Miami, and I started my career as a shop laborer. One of my -- my first supervisor there -- I don't know how much of the specific personal detail you 12:00want to get into this, but my first -- my first supervisor there, who I had to report to, his name was [Wolfgang Getty?]. Wolfgang came to Eastern after World War II. Eastern had a contract shipping goods and services back between the States and Germany in the rebuilding of Germany. And Wolfgang was a -- during the war, he was too young to be in service, but he was a -- he was in the Nazi Youth Corps. And he was 100% groomed Nazi. He was very self-disciplined, rigid, 13:00went by the book. And the clash between the civilizations that I looked at, and here I mean, there wasn't a hair out of place on him. I'd come walking in with hair down to my shoulders, as a lead responsible for this team of guys. It just didn't fit with him very well. So we had our clashes over the years, but I learned that as long as I understood our contract book and our rights under the contract, and stayed within the parameters that that contract gave me, then I'll be OK. When I went down to Miami, there was 10,000 machinists that were working in Miami at that time for Eastern Airlines. All different classifications, from 14:00mechanics to stock clerks to the baggage to the cleaners to the shop laborers. It was a very, very strong union -- local. And probably in '74, they also had a very good training school across the street, George C. Baker aircraft maintenance training. I registered for that, so I was -- started getting on a career track of becoming a mechanic. So I would go there nights, while I was working during the day.

LAPORTE: So at this point, Mike, you were 20 years old. You had 18 months, two years, service with Eastern Airlines, and then you discovered this opportunity 15:00across the street, this training center, George C. Baker, that had a course in aircraft maintenance.

FLYNN: Maintenance.

LAPORTE: And so you were working fulltime and –

FLYNN: And going to school. And -- with the goal of getting my A&P tickets for -- to be able to be a journeyman aircraft mechanic. Now, as I was going through there, we had -- under our contract, no matter what type of work you did under -- they had a number -- they had a number of a wide, broad range of mechanics under our contract. You could be an avionics mechanic. You could be an engine mechanic. You could be a power plant, sheet metal. And each of the disciplines, 16:00an additional rate of pay. You would get maybe 25 cents per license. Or for avionics ticket, you would get 50 cents. So -- but once you got into the mechanics classification, then you could move around based on what type of other experience that you have. So my intent was to get into the classification as soon as I could. In 1975, one of the first classes that they send you through at George C. Baker is metallurgy and painting. So I got my certification to paint aircraft, and I was then upgraded to a mechanic in our block overhaul area, where I worked for about -- I guess about a year, a year and a half. Now, all 17:00through this time, I became more and more active within the union. I started running for shop stewards -- and volunteering for different projects that they'd maybe be doing out of the local lodge. Fundraisers and stuff. We had a big local lodge across the street, Local Lodge 702, and there was just a lot of different benefits that they would afford to members there. We had our own dentist that the dues offset some of the prepayment that our regular insurance covered and stuff. They had an arrangement with an eye doctor over there, so you could get eyeglasses for pretty virtually free between the insurance that we negotiated with the company and the benefit through the union. So there was just a lot of 18:00activity going on within the local. So I started getting more and more active, and then probably within a year and a half of starting with paint, then I transferred to an upstairs shop job. And it was another -- it was another -- somewhat of a fluke. A lot of the guys that were in my class at the schools, at the school, a couple, their fathers were in management in some of these shops. They had gone through the ranks and then became foreman. But they knew what shops were going to be opening up and whether they were going to be hiring people, and there was an interior shop that said there was going to be 12 19:00openings coming. That's working on the interior cabinets and seats and windows and that of aircraft that come in for overhaul. So we all put in our paperwork for it, and this was a day -- this was a dayshift job, Saturdays and Sundays off. Which, if you only have five years, you don't expect to see that in that industry for 15 years. So since we had kind of the inside scoop on it, we all ended up at this shop. So we got some -- those good hours, but it also gave us an opportunity to -- especially me -- it gave me an opportunity to get more and more involved with the union and what was going on there, since my -- I was on the normal shifts, right.


LAPORTE: Right. So union meetings held in the evenings, or other events sponsored by the union scheduled in the evenings, or political activities scheduled in the evenings.

FLYNN: Right.

LAPORTE: So by a five-year seniority employee, who successfully bids on a dayshift job, then gave you the opportunity to participate more in those union events and activities?

FLYNN: Yes. And then it -- and my -- I think my passion for the union started growing at that point. I started seeing that -- especially just being the shop steward on the floor, where people would seek me out for advice and guidance on whether things were grievances or not, or to pursue it, and I'm starting to understand how to make those kind of decisions, whether -- I mean, we would have 21:00-- when I -- for an example, went up to the shop, where most of the guys were working were a lot closer to retirement than they were not. There were many, like, two, three years left or so. And these are old World War II veterans. They were just fascinating in their selves, the stories that they had. But they would come to me and they'd say -- one guy came to me, I remember, one day, and he said, "You know, can you do something about the light down at 36th Street?" I said, "What?" He said, "Well, the Pan Am hangar is on -- we're going to be making a right. The Pan Am hangar is right across from the Eastern hangar, and they have their own service [road?] to go in that hangar. Right next to it is the Eastern. Well, I'm sitting over here, waiting for -- they turn on their blinker, but I don't know whether they're going to be turning into Eastern or Pan Am." I said, "Well, that's not a grievance." There's only so much I could 22:00do, but it's not a grievance. But I found out -- it gave people an ability to vet -- vent -- somewhat, whether it was too cold in the building, or that -- the union couldn't take care of everything, but at least there was an outlet for them. You just gave them the respect of listening. Found out when it came time to -- for the important issues, that respect just built. You see down the road. You can build good rapport with folks that way.

LAPORTE: They say every experience impacts and influences us in some way. So when listening to you, perhaps your experience with Wolfgang made you aware of the specifics of the contract and what you could do as union official, and you could not do. Do you think that played a role in your service as a job steward?


FLYNN: I think it -- without a doubt. Without a doubt, because he was so rigid in that, but he knew where his boundaries were. In fact, at one time, about a year and a half later, I had to go out -- I needed to go out. I needed -- I needed two weeks off. There was just no -- there was just too much going on in Colorado, where I was going to be. And I had burned all my days off. Vacations early. And went to Wolfgang knowing he was going to say no, right. But he -- for the protocol, I had to go through him. But I also knew the manager, and the manager was a good Catholic. So I used that to my advantage. There was a retreat going on in Colorado these two weeks there. I'm considering attending that. He said, "By all means." I said, "Well, I don't have the vaca…"-"Just let 24:00Wolfgang know I approved it."

LAPORTE: So you had a manager who was filled with grace and was looking out for your soul.

FLYNN: My soul. He was -- and I think probably, in the background, he was hoping my soul would stay out [in Colorado?].

LAPORTE: You had mentioned that there were 10,000 machinists in Miami. Now, were they all members of Local Lodge 702, or –


LAPORTE: They were?


LAPORTE: So there was that concentration of union members, Ten thousand in that one local lodge in Miami.


LAPORTE: And so the standing and status that that local lodge must have had in that community, in terms of purchasing power, in terms of political clout, in terms of their standing in the community, can you comment a little bit about that, and the size of that local lodge?


FLYNN: It was -- it was -- it was huge. No matter -- any politician that was wanting to put their name in any hat came through those doors. And they -- they had a -- and we had a lot of smart members that were active within the local political scene. We had a number of our members that ran for the different councilmen and mayors. Now we have one of our ex-presidents of our lodge -- he was the president of Lodge 702 when I was the president of 1690. He's now the mayor of a town down in Florida. It's not Plantation. I'll think of the name. It's right next to Fort Lauderdale. But he was a councilman there for years, and no matter what they did, the amount of money that that represented as far as 26:00just the buying power of the community, it was -- it was it for, you know.

LAPORTE: And you mentioned that you became a steward in that local lodge. Stewards -- well, what year was that? And you were a steward with the mechanics when you were in the painting craft?

FLYNN: I was a steward in the painting, and then when I went up into the interior department. And in '79, they opened up a -- they expanded our C check operation to Atlanta. So they moved a big group of mechanics up to Atlanta. Or I 27:00guess that they opened that up in '88. Well, I had put in my paperwork to transfer. It took about a year for me to get -- to have the seniority to be able to transfer. And that's -- and I guess that was in January of '79 that I ended up in Atlanta. Now, Atlanta -- and we had 800 mechanics. Had a total of 3,200 machinists, but out of that number, there was only 800 that were mechanics. We had line mechanics, and then we had the hangar mechanics that did the -- what they call the C checks, overnight checks, for aircraft. They would roll in at midnight. Usually, that airplane rolled out by the end of the first shift the 28:00next day.

LAPORTE: And the machinists worked at the Eastern property here in Atlanta, and what type of equipment were they working on?

FLYNN: Aircraft?


FLYNN: Pretty much you worked on the DC-9s, the 727s. We would have the L-1011s. Some of the planes wouldn't fit all the way into the hangar. Pretty much their whole fleet, to 7 -- the 1011s, the L-1011s, and the 7 -- A300s -- were 29:00primarily worked in Miami. But if they needed aircraft on the ground repair, we could do it here. But it was mainly the 727s and DC-9s that we were doing C checks operations.

LAPORTE: So when you say C check, that's "C" as in Charlie?

FLYNN: Charlie check, yeah.

LAPORTE: And was the work that was performed – could mechanics go across the different aircraft? If you had a mechanic who was assigned to do interior work, would they be able to perform those duties on both the DC-9s and the 727s?

FLYNN: Yes. Yeah. Yeah, they were trained for all aircraft. Now, you could bid into your specific crews. So you would know that, more than likely, you would bid -- let's say you would bid avionics. You would bid a C check 727 crew. So 30:00you would -- 99% of your time, you would be there, but you could be farmed out to do other work. (inaudible)

LAPORTE: And so it was Atlanta in 1979. Eight hundred mechanics, and the local lodge had 3,200 employees? Is that –

FLYNN: Thirty-two hundred members.

LAPORTE: Thirty-two hundred members. And how did you find the difference in comparing your experience down in Miami with what you found in Atlanta?

FLYNN: Well, I probably -- I used the word -- I started getting the passion for the union down there, but it exploded up here. And it exploded because I saw so 31:00many opportunities that this, the union, local union, had here that they weren't taking advantage of, in providing the types of services that I know the union was capable of doing, because I came from a local that was progressive. That did things -- that were engaged politically. That was involved in a lot more community services types of activities. I learned one of my greatest lessons I learned, and I think it was probably one of the first couple of meetings that I came -came to up in Atlanta. They were discussing some issue. I'm not sure what it was. And I raised my hand and comment on it. I said, "Well" -- and I started my sentence like this. I said, "Mr. President, in Miami, they..." He takes his 32:00gavel [mimics knocking sound of a gavel]. "Hold it. Hold it, brother." He goes, "I want everybody to look out the window. Does anybody see a palm tree?" He was getting a big hoot. "Well, we're not in Miami. Now, what were you saying, brother?" "Never mind, brother." So that was my lesson, OK. It stuck to me. I started realizing that it was somewhat of a good old boy, cliquish operation happening here. They were -- there wasn't a lot of people that were at the union 33:00meetings. There was not a lot of interest in getting people to union meetings. The bylaws were the bylaws, and what they could write into the bylaws and have passed in the bylaws gave them the opportunity to do what they wanted to do. They wanted to send 12 people to Jekyll Island for a -- for a legislative weekend. They would send 12 people to legislative weekend. The 12 would be the same 12 that went to the next one, to whatever there was going. So it was a -- it could be taken -- it wasn't anything illegal, but the intent of union funds, I believe, was for the betterment of the whole. And over the years, prior to 34:00them opening up the maintenance station, they ran -- was pretty much major. They ran the local, and maintenance had very little influence into what was going on there. The only mechanics that were there were pretty much the line mechanics. Now they brought in another 600 people, most of them from Miami, from around the system, that knew what a local can provide. What services can be provided and supported. And so at that point, I started saying, well, I need to get active. I became a steward up here, and volunteered to be a trustee, and became at trustee. Got on the audit committee. A lot of the grunt work that was there, but 35:00showed that I would be willing to pull up my sleeves and get to work. And started gaining respect of different people. So I -- so things were starting to change some. We had divided – put together two different -- there was clearly two different -- the red slate and the green slate of our political parties when we ran for elections -- going to support. And we were -- in '83, we came very close to going on strike. They had -- later, I think they came to an agreement, five minutes before midnight on the day we were walking -- we had all of our toolboxes. Walked out. We took them all home. We had our strike headquarters set 36:00up at Holiday Inn, up on the hill. Everybody had their strike assignments for picketing and that. We ended up not going out, but it was a good run-up for what was to come down the road, a few years down the road.

LAPORTE: Just a couple of questions about your role in Atlanta as a steward. Now, was that an elected position?


LAPORTE: And were you elected from among the mechanics, as that one unit electing a steward from there?

FLYNN: Yeah, you were elected from your own shift and classification.

LAPORTE: And did you bring your own constituency with you from Miami with that transfer of 600 people?


FLYNN: There was a few of them, but -- and there was a few that I knew from Miami. But by and large, most of them, we had just met over the last year or so.

LAPORTE: And what do you attribute your gaining support from with a new group of workers, in a new location, in a new local? That they want Mike Flynn to be their steward. They want Mike Flynn to be their representative.

FLYNN: Well, I lined up with the ones that did have that experience with the chief steward. I worked closely with them, and he threw his support behind me, and threw his support to send me to leadership schools. That's where the union would have schools offsite. Now we have our own standalone training center, but at that time, we would be sent to different labor centers around the country. 38:00Went to University of Alabama, labor studies. Colorado -- Boulder, Colorado for second-year leadership school. But once I started getting recognized by that group, and that's where I talked -- like the green slate and that of the different people -- that they showed that they supported and respected me. Then they would encourage their friends to vote for me.

LAPORTE: And the trustee position and audit committee, were those appointed positions?

FLYNN: The trustee, I ran. It was a two-year appointment, elected. And the election took place when the local lodge elections took place. And the audit was 39:00chosen at a -- elected at a union meeting. There's -- twice a year, in our constitution, the local has to have an audit, and that's how they would go about doing it.

LAPORTE: So you were elected to be a job steward from your shift and classification. You were elected a two-year term to be a trustee for the local union. Then you were elected at a union meeting to be on the audit committee. So you won elections in three different forums, for three different positions, for the local lodge in Atlanta.

FLYNN: Right.

LAPORTE: So you had a record both of service to the local lodge, and of training that you completed through leadership school that you were sent to by the IAM.

FLYNN: Right.

LAPORTE: And so we are now in 1983, and you were looked at as a leader of the 40:00local lodge, and as preparations went forward for a possible strike in 1983, what role were you assigned in preparing for that strike, Mike?

FLYNN: I was one of the strike captains, and -- which I was responsible for the second shift hangar group, which would be assigning in order for our members to be eligible to collect their strike benefit. They have to participate in strike duties, whether it's at the local making hotdogs, or running transportation to and from the strike picket lines. Picketing itself. So it would be setting up the schedules for the group. The second shift would probably have been probably 41:00close to 300 people that would be -- have to be assigned. I would be responsible to make sure each of those had their assignments and carried them out and checked them off in order for them to be able to get their strike benefit. And then just deal with anything that would come up in between there for that group.

LAPORTE: And the logistics for that, did it include a great deal of planning, a great deal of networking, telephone trees, all of those things to coordinate that number of people or such an activity as –

FLYNN: Well, a lot of that -- the initial -- I don't think we looked far beyond that first day and the first -- but it was like, before they walked out on that Friday, they knew where they were expected to be on their next -- if the strike 42:00goes down, who was going to be the first ones at each strike picket location, and what they'd be doing. One of my finest duties was to -- there was two guys on my shift that we got the word that they went into work. They were going to scab. So they would go into work at eight o'clock. We were sitting there. We were sitting over at the Holiday Inn, preparing, getting everything. We get the call that these guys have shown up to, show up to work. So I put them first on -- they were going to be the first on strike duty at the gate. So I had to call them up and say, "I got your strike duty ready for you." So they had to tell me 43:00personally, "Well, I'm not going to be" -- "Well, what do you mean?" "Well, I'm a supervisor now." By our constitution, there's no such thing as becoming a supervisor four hours before the strike. I said, "Go walk in, and you're a scab. That's what you're going to be. I'm going to make sure you understand that." "Well, we all have to make our decisions." I said, "Yes, you did." So they ended up going into work, and we ended up rolling our toolboxes back in. Eastern laid them off that Monday, and they never came back to work. So it was like they were told, you all had a -- we're back. We're back and we're ready to go to work, but 44:00it's not going to be a good environment if we have to work around two scabs.

LAPORTE: So Eastern Airlines didn't get the notice that these two employees had been promoted to supervisors four hours before the --

FLYNN: Well, they got the notice, but as a supervisor, they didn't have any bumping rights. Right?

LAPORTE: Sure. Sure. Yeah. Yeah. It was quite a conversion that happened very quickly.

FLYNN: Yeah.

LAPORTE: It was miraculous.


LAPORTE: Ah-ha, interesting. Now, you mentioned the red slate and the green slate. Could you explain to us what comprised the red slate and the green slate in terms of that election?

FLYNN: Well. I think the green slate probably had more of a gen -- more of an 45:00influence from the Miami crew. Our -- most of our business representatives were -- general chairmen, we were called. We would have, I don't know, somewhere around 12 general chairmen. Now, they were all elected at large. So because of the sheer size of Atlanta -- of Miami -- seven or eight of them would come out of Miami. If anybody was going to come out of Atlanta to be part of that green slate, they would have to be able to bring something to the table. The number of votes that are needed. So the majority of the Atlanta slate was influenced by -- was red. They were trying to get more seats in. They really had the political 46:00capital to get. Let's see, how do I explain this? Charlie Bryan -- you've heard of Charlie Bryan?

LAPORTE: Yes, sir.

FLYNN: Charlie, he was the green -- he was the green slate. The guy that he beat was a guy by the name - and green also was influenced much by the mechanic classification, which mechanics, they were the majority classification out of Miami. Overall, actually, but -- maybe by the time you get through all the stations, it was close to 50-50, but their core group was in Miami. He had won the election by the guy by the name of [Jimmy Cates?], who was a ramp, and who 47:00was strongly supported by many of the folks in Atlanta and the ramp, heavy ramp, in Miami. So when Charlie took over the district, pretty much all but two of the general chairmen ended up being from the green slate. They were endorsed -- they endorsed each other. They campaigned for each other. Now, we had one guy here, a fellow by the name of Art Schafer, and he was a general chairman. He was on the red slate, but he had -- he had gotten elected, but the last election after this last strike, he got un-elected. It was like one of the first times an incumbent 48:00got beat, even though he had been an incumbent. But I think the green, it was probably more influenced by mechanic classification than anything. And we just tended to lean that way, just because -- I leant that way, just because I saw that -- I felt that they were much more progressive and could deliver a lot of services to everybody.

LAPORTE: As evidenced by the services offered in Miami.

FLYNN: Right.

LAPORTE: With the visual, the dental, the -- couldn't get that traffic light changed for that –

FLYNN: Yeah.

LAPORTE: -- ramp way into the hangar, but -- also, the political consideration, where elected officials would come. And so the red slate, was that defined primarily by personnel that were not from Miami and were not mechanics? Is that the distinction, or is there another distinction that would make someone part of the red slate?


FLYNN: Most of them were not mechanics. There was a couple mechanics, but most of them were not mechanics.

LAPORTE: So were they ramp workers? Were they -

FLYNN: Yeah, most of them were ramp or stores. Handled the -

LAPORTE: So they would be in parts depot and providing parts the mechanics would use?

FLYNN: Right. Shipping and receiving.

LAPORTE: In some industries, called material handlers. All right, so the green slate comes to dominate. I think you said eight out of 12 general chairmen from the green slate. Is that correct?


FLYNN: Were mechanics. Right.

LAPORTE: And so Mike Flynn is now preparing, and your efforts to prepare the local for this strike, should it come, in negotiations, and that was 1983, is that correct?

FLYNN: Eighty-three. May 3rd.

LAPORTE: And how old were you now at this time?

FLYNN: Eighty-- I was 29, I guess. I was -- '84, I would be -- yeah, I was, like, 29. Yeah.

LAPORTE: And how was -- the work that you did in preparation for that, how was that received among the hierarchy in the IAM? Were you recognized for your efforts, your work, for that passion you showed for that union work?

FLYNN: Yeah. I think we -- I think it was beginning -- I think it was acknowledged. I started being inviting -- invited -- to more functions 51:00internally, internal green functions they would have, like a green side. It would be called a green side. They would have a green side picnic, or they would have a green side leading up to next year's election on selecting a slate. Take positions. Those meetings would be held down in Miami, so if you were invited to go down to there, then you're -- they're seeking your input from here and that, on what names are we going to forward --- push forward -- from up here to get on the slates down there. It's a -- so it's kind of informal, but it was an important process to be able to keep our group together moving forward.


LAPORTE: All right. One of the things I just want to ask about is the IAM structure and how mechanics were viewed as being the most skilled, the most training, adding the most value in terms of getting aircraft out and ready to fly, and yet the machinists also represented many other employees, many other crafts, that were employed by the airline -- ramp agent, cleaners, the ground crew that you began with -- and how the IAM dealt with representing employees that were members of the same union, but were from a wide variety of different crafts.

FLYNN: Well, that's interesting, and that's -- that's a whole -- could take a whole day on that. But it was one of the biggest challenges that I had. Now, I was -- there was a group called AMFA. Now, they came to Eastern when I was still 53:00in Miami, trying to wedge -put that wedge between the mechanics and the other classifications. Well, the mechanics stood up and -locally -- and fought them off. We don't have -don't come here wasting (inaudible). We're together here. Now, they started showing up in Atlanta, also, when I came up there. Now, I used that -- when I began looking -- I was going to be running for president in '84 -- I used that as a positive. That I'm -- I'm here. I'm a mechanic, yet I also 54:00served in other classifications. And if anybody -- and the hardest to sell was the mechanics. Said, "If anybody thinks they're going to come along and convince you because of your high skill, or convince you because these folks don't have as nice skill as you, that they're keeping you down from making two and three times more an hour, it's a lie. It's nothing but a lie. Because the strength that we have at that bargaining table is the strength in the numbers of the whole." And where we succeeded, and where we -- where -- no matter where that took place, at what station, where they succeeded in keeping unity at the local 55:00level, AMFA didn't get any headway. They didn't make any headway into that group. They went on. Now, I've seen it subsequently. The same thing happened at Northwest, it happened at United, and they bit. I mean, bit into that apple. And it wasn't -- didn't take long for them not only to have lost their jobs, lost their work -- work farmed out. And without having that large group of numbers to support, they didn't have any leverage. But being able to talk from both sides and seeing that, I think it was beneficial to me, and it was -- it also gave my brothers and sisters in the other classifications somewhat of comfort. Here I 56:00am, a mechanic, but arguing to keep everybody together, and not dismissing them just because they're a different classification. And that was -- for me, it was the toughest challenge, because the numbers in Atlanta was two to one. Was two to one, non-skilled to skilled mechanics. So they could -- normally, they never had -- they -- very rarely did they ever have a president that was -- that came out of the mechanical classification.

LAPORTE: And so your role as being able to speak to the interests of both the skilled mechanics and the employees that held other classifications, that you had that credibility, because you had done it.


FLYNN: Right. And it was -- and where I saw that in areas and knowing -- in areas around the system where they succeeded is where they didn't put up that local fight. They depended on other people from the outside. Help, AMFA's coming in, and they're getting people to think like that. It really has to be taken on, all fights. Everything political is local, and all fights like that are local, too. You have to have the people that have the credibility at the local level to be the one taking the forefront on that thing.

LAPORTE: 1983, the contract was settled, and how long was that agreement for? Was it a three-year deal, a four-year deal?

FLYNN: It was -- trying to think. Normally, it would be a three-year contract. 58:00Now, that contract was -- it was very unique in that -- and it -- because much of our -- there was different formulas that were put in place there on the amount of -- I'm trying to think. I may get the -- I may get this timeline wrong. Lorenzo took over in '86, so that was -- yeah. Part of our agreement in that contract was we would -- our raises was contingent upon the amount of work that we could identify -- savings that we could identify by bringing work in. 59:00They set up joint labor management committees that would go out, and they'd look at just different things we're buying, products they're buying. Is there ways that we could fabricate those products cheaper, in house? They were buying, like, [VW?] ashtrays for the lavatory doors, at $400 or something a pop. So these committees now -- Charlie Bryan and his -coming from a strategic standpoint in negotiating that, he had already had put together his own committee upfront and had identified tens of millions of dollars of savings that, if the company was interested in, of using those savings in order to 60:00justify wage increases, were ready to go. So they signed that, and once they started unveiling how much money this is representing, they had to come back and back out of that agreement. Because they said, number one, it wouldn't be fair. The pilots and the flight attendants, they would have, like, a me-too clause in their contracts, but what kind of savings can a pilot identify? What kind of savings can a flight attendant identify, compared to the type of savings you all 61:00are identifying? Anything that's being produced or serviced or anything on a plane, you need to figure out cost savings there. Numbers are going up. Pilot, (inaudible). Like a taxi with one engine, for 45 seconds or -- it just wasn't there, so they had to restructure that contract to have the fixed wage increases put in there. And that -- at that point, that's when -- it was shortly after that is when the sale of the airline took place. Because we felt, after that '83, we were on top -- we felt really good, because we -- we got some major concessions without going on strike. Felt that we were confident that the formulas were going to give us decent wage increases along the way and everything (inaudible). And then within two years, it was sold to Frank Lorenzo.


LAPORTE: So those joint labor management efforts, they were part of the agreements that Eastern and the IAM entered into. And can you give us some examples of some of the efforts examining machinery, examining engines, examining the maintenance protocols? Perhaps greater fuel efficiency. What were some of the things that those committees came up with for those cost savings?

FLYNN: Fabricating or overhauling parts that would be -- retooling parts that were thrown away, and where they would have to fabricate brand-new ones. Find other ways to fix items that were destined for the trash. Using different, 63:00lighter materials, other materials, than would be -- to reduce their weight inside the aircraft for the seats and that. I think a big push was identifying other vendors that could provide the same products for cheaper, which was a huge amount. There was some -- a lot of sweetheart deals that was uncovered that was -- that people should have ended up going to jail on, on the type of purchasing that they were doing. A good friend of mine was -- in fact, he was matched up -- he was our -- he was a -- I'm trying to think. He was a system board adjuster. 64:00He -under the Railway Labor Act, they have -- the union has their rep, the company has their rep, and then there's a neutral system board of adjuster, which is -- one for the company and one for the union -- that is just -- they're hearing the case of arbitrations, and then -- him and his counterpart, who was an attorney for Eastern, they did a -- they literally did a fieldtrip around, driving from station to station, identifying products and that that they could -- that they bought. Then they'd come back and do the research on where they could purchase this other stuff from. So. And both parties had seemed to have gone into it in good faith, but I think the amount of numbers -- they never fathomed that the numbers would get so high that it could affect the wages as it 65:00did. So they had to give us a one-time lump payment, and then go back to our standard 3% increase over each year.

LAPORTE: So it's 1983. The contract has been settled. The labor management efforts were being held up as a model for labor management initiatives.

FLYNN: Eighty-four and '85. Right in that year.

LAPORTE: Right. And then Mike Flynn decides that he might consider running for president of the local lodge in Atlanta. Is that correct? Nineteen eighty-four?

FLYNN: Nineteen eighty-four, yeah.


LAPORTE: And the election -- how many candidates for – in that election?

FLYNN: Well, there was two. There was two. I'm trying to think what month we ran it. I think we would run it in November, the election. And I lost. It was my first election. I lost, and I lost by 35 votes. I would always say -- Atlanta, they're so nice down here. People are nice. I would tell people that would come in from other cities afterwards. You come down, and it was a great place to campaign because it's not like being in New York, where they call you -- "You're a bum. Get the hell out of here." In Atlanta, you had that friendly Southern courtesy. And -- I mean, to the point I thought, wow, I got this thing. But I 67:00ended up losing by 35 votes. We had a big -- it's all day vote, so it's always a big turnout. It's probably 80 -- 80-something percent of the membership turns out to vote. And -- but it was a good -- it was a good exercise, and I felt OK afterwards and stayed active through it. And then really the drums of war started sounding in the distance after the Lorenzo buyout. I'm trying to think. 68:00The guy that I ran against... [long pause] The guy that I ran against was not -- he had won -- I guess he was -- he was onto his second term, and then -- so he won. Then I ran against him a second time. And that's when I won. Two years later, I won. I credit that win to identifying -- I wouldn't say it's a loophole, but it's -- in our constitution, it's a -- says that you can ask for 69:00an absentee ballot if you live 25 miles from the vote -- the voting -- polling place -- if you're on vacation or if you're on sick leave. Now, you as a person have to be the one to request it. You request it directly to the recording secretary, or notify them in writing by U.S. mail. So me and my team, our green team, came up with a postcard that wrote that language, verbatim, of our constitution. And, “sign so-and-so,” and then you could check off whatever box that you come in, and then we can go -we can mail them in. We can't deliver 70:00them personally to the local, but we bought postcards that were already pre-stamped, which is -- it was like 15 cents or something, whatever it was -- and just throw them into the mailbox. So everybody on the team, we could get the list from the local through the DOL regulations. Get an address -- current list. Everybody knew who lives 25 miles away. They would be responsible for that. So by the time the election came around, it was, like, 10 times as many absentee requests came in as any other election before. And we knew everybody that we gave the cards to, so it was up to us to follow up on everybody. We know that the cards are going to be mailed to you. They're sending out today. You should be getting them in a couple days, so make sure you vote. So it made a difference in the election. So.


LAPORTE: Well, there's nothing like using the rules to your advantage.

FLYNN: Oh, yeah.

LAPORTE: And it's in the constitution. It's quoted from the constitution. And so eligible employees receive that information, and those who are eligible took advantage of it. Is that essentially the --

FLYNN: That was it.

LAPORTE: -- story?

FLYNN: That was it.

LAPORTE: Well. And how many votes did you win by, do you recall?

FLYNN: Well, that one I won by about 140.

LAPORTE: The participation rate, you said, in the first election was 80%, approximately?

FLYNN: Yeah. We were getting up to the top. We were getting closer to 90 on that last one. Yeah. It was set up to where -- we requested to be able to set up 72:00voting close to the airport, because our local was all the way over in [Forestville?]. Set up a hotel right across from the airport there. We had to get approval from the international to do that. Due notice and all that. So yeah, it was -- but, yeah, looking at the rules and saying, well, how can we make this work for us, is one of the most interesting parts of the job, even today.

LAPORTE: Some might say, in a presidential primary, that caucus votes count just as much as primary votes. Delegates are gained by whatever means is set up.


LAPORTE: So we saw the difference that made in that Democratic presidential primary. Sure. Knowing the rules and using the rules. Absolutely. So as we trace your career and the evolution of Eastern Airlines, the -- do you recall when 73:00Frank Borman became the president and CEO of Eastern Airlines? At what stage in your career?

FLYNN: Well. I think he was there when I came there. I think he started in '68 or so. But I remember him -- I mean, he had a presence around him. Had that celebrity presence around him, just by virtue of him going to the moon and that. He was used as our -- he was a mouthpiece and he was in commercials for Eastern. 74:00I still remember him walking out of the aircraft, saying, "We're the largest airline in the free world, flying more people more places. The wings -- the wings of man."

LAPORTE: He was featured, at that time, of course, the CEO as spokesperson, and Frank Borman was on a commercial in front of a number of Eastern employees, including pilots and flight attendants and mechanics and ramp workers, saying, "At Eastern Airlines, we earn our wings every day."

FLYNN: Every day.

LAPORTE: And in another commercial, he was quoted as saying that people -- "When people ask me about how the airline business is today, I tell people that, Eastern Airlines, things are going, zoom!" And he held his hand out and made a motion as an airplane rising in the sky. And apparently, Eastern was doing well. 75:00The labor management initiatives were paying great dividends. It was flying more people than any other airline. And then we had a change, and Eastern Airlines began asking employees for concessions. Began seeking to take back wage increases and benefits, et cetera. Do you recall the timeframe for that, Mike?

FLYNN: Well, this kind of brings us back -- it's going to rattle something in my mind back, and -- when I was in Miami. And this was probably a crucial point for me, personally. But I guess it was at 70 -- '78 or so. No, '76. 1976. They set 76:00up a -- they called it VEP, veritable earnings program. And we would get stock in lieu of wages -- increases. So we were going to vote on this thing, and we get this packet in the mail, and -- on a Friday. This thick. Has a prospectus in it. It's [sent to?] somebody familiar with stocks and bonds, and you have to get the whole annual reports and all that. The prospectus of what this program was all about. And I took it over to the library, because I could hardly read it -- 77:00understand it -- and I was going down through it. And I called our leader on Monday, our district, and he was a predecessor to Charlie Bryan. And I -- and he would never return my call. I called the office. Never returned my call. So somebody told me, well, call this guy, a guy by the name of George Brown. He's one of our international reps, retired. And he goes, "If you don't like them, he'll -- maybe he can give you some guidance." So I called him, and he goes -- he goes, "I'll tell you what." He said, "I'm going to give you William Winpisinger phone number at home. Don't tell where you go it. But you just tell him what you told me, because it doesn't sound right, what you're saying." So I called him. Now, I didn't know who William Winpisinger was from the Cat in the Hat. It was just -- so I called him. He answers the phone. "This is Mike Flynn. 78:00I work down in Miami, Eastern Airlines." He goes, "I just got in from Ireland," or something. "Well," I said, "Here's" -- I said, "I've been trying to call" -- because he asked. He goes, "Did you talk -- call your DBR?" I said, "I tried to call up, but nobody answered my phone call." He said, "What's your question?" I said, "We're supposed to vote on this thing tomorrow. They renting -- they're renting out Miami State for us to vote on this contract, and it's about some kind of wage concession. And they sent all this prospectus information and stock information, and I don't know shit from Shinola." I said, "Now, I can guarantee I've probably spent more time than anybody else -- I spent all day Saturday and half the day Sunday at the Coral Gables Library, trying to figure this out." I said, "I still don't know what it means." I said, "Now, I don't think its right 79:00that the union does that to me like that. They should explain it so we can understand it." Said, "Well, son, let me make a few phone calls and see what's going on there." And the next day it came out they delayed. He got it delayed. He got it to delay it, and they were told to set up informational meetings for the membership, and then the vote will be the following week. Nobody said Flynn or anything about it, but that was something that -- it just stuck to me. Here's a union that -got to talk to the top guy, and he empathized what was going on there. But –

LAPORTE: Just a couple of notes. William Winpisinger, of course, was the international president of the International Association of Machinists, and a DBR is a directing business agent.

FLYNN: Right.

LAPORTE: I'm sorry –

FLYNN: Representative.

LAPORTE: -- directing business representative.

FLYNN: Right.


LAPORTE: So you, Mike Flynn from Miami, picks up the phone and calls the international president, and got the vote delayed on the ratification of the wage concession for stock, until such time as the union, the international, would explain exactly what it was going to involve. What the effect would be on wage earnings represented by the IAM.

FLYNN: Right. And the vote went through, and the vote passed. And at the end of the day, the stock that we received was valued less than -- once they went bankrupt, there was -- had no value at all. But it -but it -- at least everybody that wanted to had an opportunity to get more informed about it, which I felt was the best that they could do. Whether they want to vote for it or not, that's their option. Now even after the '83 vote, or ratification of that '83 contract, 81:00there were some efforts of joint labor management working together, committees. There was somewhat of a trend going on in the U.S. labor management. Eventually, that disintegrated because the -- one of the -- one of the -- one of the main problems the company did hear -- we had a change of leadership, and even some of our stewards and chief stewards were removed from office. Which were – they were fulltime jobs, but the people decided they wanted to put other folks in 82:00there. The company still tapped them to be on these other committees, these labor management committees. And because of that, they -it just did not succeed. People felt that we hadn't elected them for a reason, and if we're going to be on a joint labor committee, we'll decide who's going to be on the labor side of things, and you all can decide who's going to be the management. So -- and that was probably one of the last efforts that they put together prior to Lorenzo coming in and taking over the airline.

LAPORTE: That's interesting in that, if it's a labor management committee, then, as you say, labor is to name the labor representatives. The company doesn't name 83:00the union's representative. I'm sure that the union would have liked to have the opportunity to name the management representatives –

FLYNN: Yeah.

LAPORTE: -- to the labor management committee. Oh, my stars. So we have your election, and now you are the president, here in Atlanta, of Local Lodge 1690. And what role did you play, as president of Local Lodge 1690, in terms of subsequent negotiations with Eastern Airlines?

FLYNN: I was not directly involved with the negotiations president -- the president of the district, Charlie Bryan. Now, I also was on the executive board of the district that -- the district, under our constitution, is responsible for 84:00the negotiating and the administrating of the contracts. The locals are responsible for just administering local activities in the area -- in those areas. Now, our -- my vice president for the local was put on the negotiating committee as a representative from Atlanta, and he was from another classification. They had -- Charlie was the head negotiator. He had three other rank-and-file members on the committee, and he had two subject matter experts on finance and pensions. That was really the core group within the negotiations. 85:00Now, leading up to there, there -- the charge from Lorenzo was, there are no gray areas within our contracts; everything is black and white. So any past practice, if it's not in the book, it doesn't exist. They implemented a new attendance program that they had a right to do under the contract. Terminations started. I think by the time we went on strike, it was in the hundreds, 86:00system-wide, of people that had been terminated, that were awaiting arbitration. Most of them would get -- in fact, most of them received an award after the -- they went out of business, but they received it on five cents on the dollar, because the fund was included into the bankruptcy funds. So you had all this turmoil going on, so a big role that I was somewhat involved in was trying to keep the cap on from over -- overflowing. We knew the importance, I mean the law. If we went outside of the law, the company would not blink before they 87:00would come down on you with the strength of the law. Any kind of illegal actions, or any stoppages or anything like that, we would not -we would not win. Under the Railway Labor Act, it was pretty clear what we could and could not do. Railway Labor Act also -- it just kind of kept an open-ended contract. It's not like the NLRB, where –

LAPORTE: There's no –

FLYNN: -- the contract's over and it's done. It just goes on and on and on, until they release you. So we never knew when we would be released. But it was just a constant gloom and doom going in, and people realizing, where are we headed? So my biggest challenge that I felt was to keep people focused on -- as long as we're in there, in the room, in negotiations, we've got a shot at this. 88:00And hopefully time will -- time will tell and time would -- will allow more calmer eyes to look at it and make decisions in the best interest of everybody. I never believed that -- I knew Lorenzo would -- was ruthless and that, and all those horrible things. But I would never believe that he would have allowed it just to go -- just throw everything out with it and allow it to be totally destroyed just because he didn't get his way. I always felt, one day, we would be back in, all through that, whether it was going to be Ueberroth, or I know Charlie Bryan had some other discussions with some other financers along the way 89:00that had an interest in it. But to keep everybody together, even at work, and on task, was a big challenge for us.


FLYNN: From the local perspective, we concentrated a lot on that.

LAPORTE: Now, if we can just return to Frank Borman. Colonel Borman, of course, was an astronaut, and he made some decisions about Eastern Airlines. He borrowed a lot of money, and he borrowed that money at a very high interest rate, and he used the money he borrowed to upgrade Eastern's fleet. He bought a number of Boeing 757s, which were much more fuel-efficient than the current aircraft in the Eastern fleet. I am told that a combination of factors impacted Eastern. 90:00Number one, borrowing at that high interest rate and locking in at those rates. Number two, the cost of jet fuel didn't increase; it decreased substantially. So here is Frank Lorenzo, with Eastern locked in at high interest rates that are not achieving the cost savings that he thought he would from greater fuel efficiency, and their expenses to service the debt were becoming so large that they needed greater revenue or to cut costs, and Borman came to the unions and sought wage concessions. Do you recall those episodes with Borman, and negotiating with the pilots, negotiating with the flight attendants, and the machinists for wage concessions?

FLYNN: Well, that -- and all that, I think, is around that same time, with the wage concessions and finding other formulas to cost savings that could be 91:00returned to us in forms of increases. Now, I think the analogy that was used many times with Borman in that, and it was -- he would always talk like he's second person, like, "Well, it's the banks." You know, "I'm here because of the banks." Well, if you go to the bank and ask for a 20% loan, they'll give you a 20% loan, but they're going to own you, and they're going to force you to agree to certain things. And they forced -- and they were really forcing his hand on that. Now, whether some of those business contracts that he had with buying a 92:00new airplane right off the flight line from Boeing, or being the first to buy the A300s from Airbus, if there wasn't other motives in there besides that, I don't know if we'll ever know. But to make all those deals and then come back to the employees and demand them to sacrifice for that, that was -- there was a lot of contention on our part that that was happening, and it kept happening again. And it wasn't -- it wasn't the first or second time they were coming back to us for concessions, but it always sounded, to us, from the “frank-and-file,” that they were more being dictated by the banks than by Borman. Borman wanted to say, "Well, if it was up to me, I wouldn't, but..." Well, you're making the deal with the bank, so you can say it's the banks, but it is really you.


LAPORTE: At one point, Charlie Bryan was quoted as saying that if you totaled up all the value of all the concessions that employees had made to Eastern Airlines, that the employees would have had enough money to buy Eastern Airlines. Do you recall that statement, and how accurate do you think it was?

FLYNN: Well, I don't know. I don't recall that statement, but, I mean, the concessions really began in end of '78. I remember, in '74, we had the Nixon pay freeze. We were forced. In fact, I was surprised we hadn't heard any of that in these last two years, about -- I don't know if the laws have changed or what, 94:00but they had the national freeze, right? And then we -- and then '76, that's when we got into the veritable earnings program, the VEP. We had another one, WIP. That was W-I-P. We had a few acronym programs, which gave us stocks, and others gave us stocks you couldn't cash until you left, or you had a long illness or something. But the timeline in those concessions, it was probably over a good -- and probably Charlie Bryan won his election due to the VEP program being negotiated under his former -- his predecessor. Because people were getting tired of having these kind of -- they just looked like -- it was a shell game on these. United Airlines -- it was funny, because they were in our 95:00local also. We had a number of airlines in our local, and they would report. At the local lodge meeting, we would have a report from each of the representatives from the airlines. United, they would always stand up on how -- and one said, "I hate to even say anything, because you hear all these horror stories, what's going on with you, but United" -- he could report their stock value now is worth $100,000 for every employee. Well, three years later, their stock value for every employee was worth $30. Unless you could cash it out when you quit. That's the only way you made money of it, and it just went right down the drain. So 96:00whether -- how many concessions did we give, and if we could buy it -- I don't know if that would be accurate.

LAPORTE: But there were concessions made by the machinists to lower the cost of Eastern Air Lines, as there was by the pilots and the flight attendants. And my recollection is that Colonel Borman, Frank Borman, came to all the unions a second time, another time, and he was seeking additional concessions. And the flight attendants agreed, and I believe the number was a 15% wage reduction, and the pilots agreed. And then Charlie Bryan, speaking for the machinists, said that the machinists had lost confidence in the leadership of Frank Borman, and 97:00if the board of directors at Eastern Airlines wanted a 15% additional concession from the machinists union, it would come only after the resignation of Frank Borman. And the board of directors said that, we are not going to agree to such terms, that we run this airline, not Charlie Bryan, and we're not going to demand that Colonel Borman resign. And the response was, if the machinists failed to give the concession, they were going to sell Eastern Airlines to Frank Lorenzo. And so you had these two very strong-willed individuals, Frank Borman and Charlie Bryan, with Frank Lorenzo held out as the bogeyman. That if we don't 98:00reach an agreement, the devil is going to come and run Eastern Airlines. Do you remember those negotiations, Mike, and the impact it had on rank-and-file workers that you represented at Local Lodge 1690?

FLYNN: Well, I don't think we had the -- that insight to that. I certainly heard it after the fact, but when it was going on, knew it as a standoff at that point. But when the name Frank Lorenzo hit, it just seemed so far out -- out -- out of the realm of reality that nobody thought that was a serious threat. We didn't. And when it happened, it was a shock at that point that it could happen.


LAPORTE: Lorenzo had acquired Continental Airlines, and had taken that company into bankruptcy, and used the bankruptcy laws to negate the collective bargaining agreements and all the wage schedules contained therein. And it was seen as an abuse of the bankruptcy laws. It was seen as undermining the collective bargaining process, and no one believed that such tactics would be used at Eastern Airlines, such a well-established company, where there had been this record of labor management cooperation and progress, and being built to be the largest airline in the free world.

FLYNN: Yeah, and I mean -- and I think part of the shock was that we didn't believe, also, that the government would stand by and certify such a transaction 100:00as that. But then as time showed over time, there was such a revolving door between Lorenzo's empire and transportation department and that, of the same personalities that were showing up. Well, this thing was much bigger than we even imagined from the rank-and-file perspective.

LAPORTE: So the negotiations broke down. There were no -- there was a point at which the National Mediation Board released the parties to engage in economic activities to withdraw their services. Can you give us a little insight as to 101:00some of that background and what was happening at that point?

FLYNN: Let me get my...This was when we were released under Lorenzo?


FLYNN: You want a play-over?

LAPORTE: [inaudible]


LAPORTE: All right, very well. So, Mike, you had told us that a contract had been negotiated and ratified in 1983, and then it was set to expire. The amendable date would be in 1986, and then that was the year that Frank Lorenzo purchased Eastern Airlines. Can you tell us what that was like for rank-and-file 102:00workers, and you as a union official, to now know that Frank Lorenzo, the man who took Continental into bankruptcy and negated the labor contracts -- what was the reaction when word came down that Frank Lorenzo was now running Eastern Airlines?

FLYNN: Well, the initial reaction was one of unbelief, but he was really an unknown to us. We didn't really have a lot of knowledge of him, except what he had done with Texas Air. I remember the night that the announcement was made, and people would come to me. I said, oh, well, that just didn't sound like that -- you always hear rumors. Rumors always floating. Said, "That sounds like a rumor, but I'll look into it." When we started looking into it, we started seeing, no, this is -- this is for real. And his track -- history doesn't look 103:00pretty, but we have to wait and see what's going to transpire here. Eventually, we started seeing the movement of assets from Eastern to Continental. The roots. The closing of certain stations. The transferring of gates. And we started really observing, over the next year and a half, the systematic dismantling of Eastern. Of seeing a lot of the valued products that Eastern had, and resources that they had, being shifted under this entity they call, now, Texas Air Holdings. Our reservation system was one of the biggest of slaps that a lot of 104:00the Eastern employees felt, because it was a $100 million system, they sold it for $10 million, and they leased it back at $10 million a month, to Eastern, to use. And just the simple math of it says, well, wait, why doesn't people see what's going on here? This is -- this is -- people -- well, people used to be put in jail for doing stuff like that, but apparently everything -- it being a decision made by the Texas Air Corporation of how they want to utilize their subsidiaries made it a legal transaction as far as Lorenzo was concerned. But as we saw it, and as -- not only as union members, but employees of Eastern saw it, it was resources, and it was an industry that was built by them, the employees, 105:00just as much as it was the investors had invested into it. And seeing that, and seeing the way that Frank Lorenzo was treating all of Eastern Airlines -- and I used to say, and I said it many times, he was probably the best union organizer we had. Because he realized, and he made people realize, that unless we were in this together, we didn't have a chance at all. At all. And that's how we approached it in moving forward, of supporting our negotiating committee who had been put in place. They were going through the process of meeting as they 106:00brought in the National Mediation Board. I think there was many times that a union would call to be released somewhat early in negotiations. That didn't -- that wasn't in place. That wasn't what the strategy of our negotiators was. They were -- realized we weren't prepared at this point. We had to see this thing unfold before we could ask for that release. In fact, the company was really -- was too anxious to want to be released, which was -- in itself, gave us pause. But while all this was going on, there was other aspects that we felt -- and even our skilled mechanics were starting to be concerned about some of the way the airplanes were being signed off and allowed to fly in ways of -- they 107:00weren't allowed before to be properly maintained. They allowed certain things to continue to fly that, under older days, they would have been grounded until they were fixed. We put together a couple committees, one a local in Atlanta, and also Miami, FAA safety oversight committee, made up of rank and file that was compiling the data to bring to the FAA to let them know that this isn't just crying wolf. These are some serious concerns that the mechanics have. The FAA did get involved in that. They ended up fining Eastern during that time over a 108:00$9.7 million fine, which was, at the time, was the highest fine ever levied on an airline, because of their shoddy maintenance practices. So these are the kind of things that we felt that the public needs to know about. They should be aware of it. That somebody that comes in and just wants to extract the valuable assets out of an airline and let it go, there's a price that's going to be paid. We worry about our safety as much as the passenger's safety. Our family is flying these airlines. We don't want to sign up as -- sign off airplanes that shouldn't be, but people were literally getting disciplined for not agreeing to sign off 109:00aircraft that they felt wasn't serviceable. So these types of problems were just raising their selves all throughout the system. We felt that we had to keep our people intact and keep us focused on what our outcome wanted to be, and our outcome wanted to be to have an Eastern Airline, a profitable Eastern Airlines, back and running, with good, secure jobs. When Frank Lorenzo came in, and when the first contracts hit the presses, what his offer was, was -- essentially 110:00ripped our contract in two. The wages were cut in half. The benefits were cut in half. And it was really -- as hard as he came at us, it even gave -- it even gave our weakest members, the ones that may have bought onto a contract, that may -- that didn't reach a certain level, but it was a wakeup call for everybody that he's not going to be satisfied until he takes it down to the least common denominator for everybody. So that put a lot of unity into our membership.

LAPORTE: Well, here we have the combination of reducing assets that produce 111:00revenue, like the reservation system. And was the Eastern shuttle, in Boston, New York, and Washington -- traditionally one of the most valuable routes on the Eastern Seaboard -- was that de-emphasized or shifted as well?

FLYNN: I would say we considered that the crown jewel of Eastern. That was -- it was nothing but a moneymaker. You could see certain routes that were struggling in that, but when you look at those assets that were being removed, were the ones that gave Eastern the value that it had. Cleveland – I don’t know how many gates they gave up in Cleveland for Continental, for virtually nothing. So when you look around and you see it, and it was, oh, it looks like he either wants to put Eastern all the way out of business and just shift everything into Continental after he takes off the -the icing off the cake. Whatever they have 112:00left, they have left. That's the way it's going to be. But there didn't seem to be any long-term plan for a strong survival, viable, Eastern, in what he was doing to it.

LAPORTE: Yeah. And so that pattern continued with the Northeast shuttle, and then, of course, the other great route was Boston and New York to Miami. And Eastern had played such a key role in that route. Did you see a similar effort, losing gates in Miami, losing gates at LaGuardia or Kennedy? I guess LaGuardia would have been the main route between New York and Miami.

FLYNN: Yeah. At the time, I think some of the other airlines started seeing the 113:00blood in American at the same time. They started ramping up down in Miami. They saw it injured Eastern. So from a business standpoint, they were going to take advantage of a weakened Eastern. And as time goes on, there really was not an effort on the part of management's part to try to regroup and come up with another strategy to rebuild. It was just taking this to wherever it was going to end up anyway. Down. I don't know at what point where -- if -- when Marty Shugrue finally took it over after the court forced Lorenzo out. If it was -- if it was too late at that point, or was it a year before that, where, no matter 114:00what happened, it could have been done. Revived. By the time they went through the 18 months of bankruptcy, there was just -- there was nothing left, except a skeleton, to it. But all through it, our people was -- by and large, we stayed optimistic, hoping that better minds will solve this thing at the end. Come to senses. It didn't happen.

LAPORTE: Right, right, right. In your opinion, would it be a fair statement that the assets, resources, and wealth that was held by Eastern Airlines, all were transferred to Continental as a result of decisions by Texas Air, and that the 115:00value of those assets all became part of Continental, and essentially Eastern was bought to pick off its valuable parts?

FLYNN: That's at the end, afterwards. That's what it exactly looked like. Starting with the reservation system, and the amount of debt -- the amount of debt that they had. They didn't have the assets even to support that debt any longer. They were struggling before that, and they extracted all the most valuable assets that there was no way to be able to put in there. Enough to put -- make the bankers happy.

LAPORTE: Yeah. And then the lowering of wages, the proposal to lower wages and 116:00benefits by 50%, was that viewed as a systematic diminishing of the value of work and workers?

FLYNN: Yes. Yeah. Now, they -- I think they felt that -- and they looked at -- it's probably pretty prevalent now, in today's environment, airline environment, of how much work that they can contract out, and how much of a savings that they can realize from that. There was a -- some of the laws back then required that 117:00maintenance work, for instance, needs to be done in this country. Those laws have been since loosened. A good 40% of the maintenance work on U.S. aircraft are done across the borders, down in Singapore, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico. And the way the law is, it takes one A&P licensed mechanic to sign off the work. You can have 10 non-licensed mechanics working it, but only one to sign it off. So I think the industry saw that as a way to really reduce their bottom line when it came to maintenance. They also saw the value of what a worker that will load 118:00airplanes, or work at ticket counters, or the value of being able to fly their selves and their family for free. What kind of tradeoff was that? What kind of value was that? Would a worker be willing to come in for half the cost of what our ramp service was making, if they could just fly for free? And they found out, yes. There is a high -- there's a high value put to that. They were finding that people -- there was people that would work for free if they could fly for free. Certain jobs. So -- now, our members, they built the industry to where it ended up at. To just be dismissed then is just -- well, we can just charge to 119:00the bottom of the pay pool and replace you by putting these other incentives in there. It was an insult to them, and something that they wanted to protect.

LAPORTE: Were there any efforts by the board of directors at Eastern Airlines to protect the assets, to protect the viability of the corporation and the value of its stock, from these efforts by Frank Lorenzo to bleed off assets?

FLYNN: I don't know if they had the -- I would answer, first, I don't know. I just don't know what kind of conversation took place there. But I don't know if any of them had much of a say into it, just by the base of how much Texas Air 120:00Holding Company held of all the value of the stocks. I think by and large, they were the vast owner of it all. I think that would be an interesting project to try to include in here. What kind of conversations did they have?

LAPORTE: Yeah. So the contract became amendable in 1986, and the proposals were to slash wages and benefits. My understanding is that employees rejected those proposals out of hand. That they weren't the industry standard, and that they had no basis in reality or the going wage rates for those positions represented 121:00by the IAM. Can you tell us a little bit about the dynamics of some of that, of those proposals, and employees' reactions?

FLYNN: Well, we have, under our constitution, we had to bring that back to the employees, to the members, to vote. And you have to -- you have to have two votes. You have a strike vote and a vote to accept or reject a contract. And we tell them when they do that, if you don't vote to strike and you don't vote for the contract, you voted for the contract. And you have to -- it takes 66%, under our constitution, to be able to strike. We held our -- we held our strike vote. It would be -- once we were released, we would schedule the strike vote, so it would be three weeks before the -- about three weeks before the actual date. And 122:00it was like a 93% plus on both of them, strike and reject the contract. So it was -- and we had all-day informational meetings. The negotiating committee came in and explained each of the changes, point by point. What it would cost. What the cost -- additional costs on the insurance and reduction of the pay. Set up two levels of pay scale. So it was just thrown out, just rejected, overwhelmingly. They're not gonna work for that. Period.

LAPORTE: Right. Yeah.


FLYNN: When we went out, we had -- here -- every – we had 100% walk out. We had about seven of them that we identified, over the next month or so, that went back in, but that was about it.

LAPORTE: So seven who crossed the picket line and went back in –

FLYNN: Right.

LAPORTE: Out of how many employees?

FLYNN: Well, out here in Atlanta, it was 3,200 at the time.

LAPORTE: Some might call that solidarity.

FLYNN: I would call that super-solidarity. That was -- leading up to it, I'll tell you, we -- it was probably one of the most interesting parts of my whole career, of preparing for that. Because we had our red side and our green side, right? Always there, but I called a red side, green side meeting to put out a -- 124:00issue a statement of solidarity going forward. This was -- as we were new, I guess it was towards that -- towards the end, before we went on strike. We're all in this together. We've got to move forward and so...We named -- whether or not I would want to be the person to work with. We were -- we all had to do it. And we have to show that here for everybody. And we did. We took full advantage of having a city council here that understood rights, basic rights, civil 125:00rights. So when we applied for our picketing permit, we identified every cranny and corner of the airport that we could think of, of where we should have a picket, which included inside the concourses at the top of each escalator, at B and C. On top of each escalator there. Outside of every door coming into the Eastern. Every gate surrounding it. We even got a permit to have the field across from -- adjacent to the hangar. And we needed that because our local was in [Forestville?]. We said, we're going to be transferring -- transporting -- 126:00pickets back and forth to the airport all day and night. We just need more of a centralized place to be able to congregate and move around. They gave us everything we wanted, and that was -- I guess that was Mayor -- Maynard Jackson. I guess it was his administration. Which we ended up building a tent city, in effect. Were you familiar with that over there? The tent city that we had over there? And right on that land, and it just drove Eastern just absolutely nuts. Because it was manned day in and day out. We ended up having bands come out there, and family days, and hotdogs. It just kind of grew. And -- but having 127:00that, and then being able to keep the people in a place to keep them centralized, keep them informed, that was very helpful for the initial strength of the picket line.

LAPORTE: Can I ask about the role of the U.S. government, the role of the National Mediation Board, in terms of keeping the parties together, actively participating in mediation efforts, and then other tools that were available under the Railway Labor Act, including a Presidential Emergency Board? How did 128:00any of those things play into the negotiation with Eastern and the machinists?

FLYNN: I don't know if I can answer that question. I'm trying to think.

LAPORTE: Let me be more specific. Did the president appoint a Presidential Emergency Board to hold hearings and issue a report on the negotiations between Eastern –

FLYNN: No. No, that was rejected. Right.

LAPORTE: OK. And so we recently had several Presidential Emergency Boards appointed, to hold hearings and to release a fact-finding report. And numerous times, those have resulted in agreements before the terms and conditions are 129:00voted on by the Congress. Yet, in this situation, there was not even a Presidential Emergency Board appointed.

FLYNN: No, and that was a vote that they -- they – they kept -- the Congress kept -- from allowing to happen. That was -- they prevented that. And that's what we were attempting to have put in place. But that's where we found that revolving door between Congress, between the Department of Transportation, and Texas Air, and Bush. It was a pretty tight circle of people that controlled that. And even though -- it would -it would -- I mean, even binding arbitration is the last thing that we would want, but you get in a circumstance, you have to, you have to. But that was -- it was one of those circumstances. Well, we would -- whatever it takes. Let's get other people in there. But that's not -- 130:00that was fought tooth and nail by Texas Air and Lorenzo to prevent that from happening.

LAPORTE: And that was in 1989?

FLYNN: Yeah.

LAPORTE: And so President George Herbert Walker Bush would have been president, and he, of course, made his home in Houston, Texas at that time.

FLYNN: Yeah. [chuckles] Yeah.

LAPORTE: So we -- is it a fair statement that, from the machinists perspective, that the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, including mandatory mediation of holding the parties, not releasing them, and appointing a Presidential Emergency Board, that none of those things were done, and that it allowed the employer, Eastern Airlines, Texas Air, as the holding company, to engage in economic 131:00activity that was not going to result in a collective bargaining agreement?

FLYNN: Yes. Yeah.

LAPORTE: So does that – does that speak to the importance of the labor movement being involved in political activities that then result in public policy?

FLYNN: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was – it was a great civic lesson for our members, too, because during this time, also, Newt Gingrich was running for Congress, and he about lost. He came within 800-some votes of losing, and a lot of that was our people. Well, they weren't working. So they got a lot of political activists out of folks that normally wouldn't get involved in it. But they also saw that - where he could have influenced it prior, prior to the strike. He could have used his office and influenced some of what was going on. 132:00He chose not to, and people realized that. How important it is. I always think about, boy, history would have been changed if we had gotten that 800 votes there.

LAPORTE: And his challenger was an attorney by the name of David Worley. Yes.

FLYNN: And what was -- what was heartbreaking about that - in fact, I mean, he was so close. There were -there were some people who even called on him -- call on -- called the election early for Dave. And we were over at the hotel there, but -- but his -- Dave had gone to the National Democratic -- I guess 133:00Congressional Committee or whatever -- and asked for an additional $50,000 the last -- leading up to the last two weeks, for radio, to really -- he felt that would be enough. And the -- you're not close enough. And then the day after the election, they must have spent a million sending planes to all the lawyers out for a recount and see if there is anything that they could do, upturning that election.

LAPORTE: Yeah. Yeah. Yes, history can be changed by just & a few -- a few hundred votes, one way or another.

FLYNN: Yeah.

LAPORTE: Absolutely, yes

FLYNN: That was Contract for America, after that.

LAPORTE: Correct. Correct. 1994, yeah. Yeah. So the vote was 93% to go on strike. The vote was 93% to reject the contract. And so failure by the 134:00government to intercede, to take any action to ensure continuation of service by the airline, and then NMB then invoked a cooling-off period. Is that correct?

FLYNN: Thirty-day cooling off, until midnight of the third.

LAPORTE: And the date that you were -- that both parties were released, or the end of the cooling-off period, that was March --

FLYNN: Third.

LAPORTE: Third. 1989.

FLYNN: Eighty-nine.

LAPORTE: And then what events were then put into place as of that March 3rd, 1989?

FLYNN: Once that happened -- once that happened was the start -- well, everybody had fair warning on where their picket assignments would be, where they were expected to show up. We had to get the -- set it up to be able to feed the 135:00picketers, and have them report in certain areas, and transporting them, and where to park. So we just took care of the business here. Reached out to the local -- other local unions. The Atlanta Labor Council, state fed. Richard Ray, who was a state fed. Herb -- Herb Mabry. Building trades. They came. Everybody just rolled up their sleeves. The Atlanta labor community was there. I remember the building trades bringing -- we had the permit of the field, which was just all mud. The building trades came with truckloads of big rock to set down a foundation there for us. Help build a stage there. Put tents where we could cook under. Different locals started be contacting us, asking what do we need, if 136:00there was any jobs that were available. The IATSC folks, they had contracts at the convention center for these big tradeshows and that. They said, "We're always looking for people. If we run out our list, if your people want to sign up, put them on the list. They'll be able to come in and work." So there was just a lot of local support from the labor community around. Churches. Even some of the restaurants along Virginia Avenue, they were bringing over buckets of ice tea and stuff. I felt it was -starting it off, it looked like, well, the community is with us. When the people see that [inside there was census?], they're going to realize, let's get this thing resolved. That was always a 137:00hopeful thing at that point. We really hoped that it would come to a conclusion, as most strikes do.

LAPORTE: Right. Ninety-eight percent of negotiations result in a contract, so a strike is a rare thing.

FLYNN: Yeah.

LAPORTE: And then the majority of those end up with negotiations reconvening. What were the reaction after the display of community support and solidarity from other labor unions? Were there -- was there any movement on behalf of the company to recommence negotiations?

FLYNN: No. They -- they shut -- they shut down the operation, and they started 138:00putting together their startup plan. And they kept the public aware of their startup plan, and I think they were going to launch it in early April, when the flight attendants and the pilots walked out. So they had to -- they had to regroup after that also. But they were going to inaugurate a new startup plan -- I think it was April 7th or so -- and start flying limited routes. So their concentration was pretty much all on that. Now, our president, Charlie Bryan, he was still looking for that white knight. Looking for that fire. There was a 139:00number of interested parties. If he thought that there was an opportunity to bring somebody in that wants to run it, we would be willing to sit down and work with them. A few people came and went. Some of them, they were on -- ongoing discussions. Basically, that's the most information we were getting from that that we could report to our membership. A few times, Charlie would come into town and we'd set up a -- and advertise it. He'll be here on Saturday or whatever. Kind of get us to report that so people would hear it their selves. Any type of information that we would get, any movement at all, we would -- first thing we would do, we'd get that communicated to our folks, whether it's through handouts or what. We'd get it out.


LAPORTE: And then as those questions came up -- well, did the Eastern Airlines ever launch the -- restart the new Eastern Airlines?

FLYNN: Yeah. Yeah, they did. But it just dug our heels in that much tighter. It was -- the people had to go through two or three pickets any time they get in the airplane -- airport -- if you're in Atlanta, especially. We gave an exemption one time for the mayor, because the national -- the International Olympic Committee, they were reviewing all the different -- all the different cities that they were planning on -- that were going for the Olympics. I guess 141:0070 -- '96 Olympics. And they hadn't yet chosen it. So they were trying to showcase the best of Atlanta, and they needed to -- and it just so happened they coincided with Jesse Jackson coming down. And we were having a prayer session in front of the Eastern ticket counter, and he marched us over there, and then everybody kneeled -- everybody knelt -- and the Olympic Committee came through, and they were -- I don't know. Maybe the prayers got us the Olympics there.

LAPORTE: Yeah. Yeah. So take us through that timeline, then. Eastern launches and people have to walk through picket lines. How long did they continue to operate before Eastern Airlines shut down?

FLYNN: Well, they -- they shut down at the end of – I guess it was in January 142:00of '91. It was the final shutdown. It was bleeding. Everybody knew. There was just -- I don't think it was any shock when it ended up shutting down. It was more shock that we were even able to start up and get that, but they just couldn't get any traction. There was -- the -- their plans, their putting together a viable plan to get out of bankruptcy, kept on being delayed, delayed. I'm not sure of the timeline, but at one point, Lorenzo was removed, and then Marty Shugrue was put in there to -- I guess as a trustee for the -- for that. 143:00But at the end of the day, they just weren't able to get beyond the strike. That was -- that was...They certainly couldn't do it if they weren't going to sit down with any of the unions and do it. So they - that was their final decision that had to be made. It was either sit it down and see if we can work out an agreement, or just shut it down all together. It was too late. So I think between probably their board and the banks, it was -- we couldn't -- we couldn't salvage it.

LAPORTE: So what do you think in terms of the precipitating events? Was it more 144:00the bleeding off of assets of Eastern to Texas Air as a holding company that then rendered Eastern almost incapable of operating a successful, profitable airline? Or some people have continually tried to blame the unions. That if they only had agreed to cut their wages, if they only had agreed to something, then Eastern Airlines could have been salvaged. What is your thoughts on those opinions, Mike?

FLYNN: Oh. I don't think that -- I believe that Frank Lorenzo's intention was to be able to operate his company without unions on the property. And that if he 145:00had taken the drastic steps that he had taken, would be enough for the unions just to throw in their white towel, and that would be it, and he would be left alone to do whatever he wanted. I don't think he imagined that the fight that he faced was going to be part of it, but I don't think his ego allowed him to walk away from it. I don't believe at all that he, for one minute, ever, wanted to work with us and to allow unions to be viable on his property, no matter how much, or how little, he paid. He didn't want to have to deal with the unions at all. That was kind of his track record. He didn't. Now, the funny thing - I mean, now they have -- Continental is pretty successful these days. They have some good union contracts and healthcare. But I think he thought -he just got 146:00too greedy. Thought he could get everything that he wanted. And he could come in with such a heavy hammer, and he just could destroy us, and just move on. So...I was at the hearing where he tried to -- he was ruled incompetent by the FAA, two years later. He wanted to start another airline. Did you know about that? And so they had a hearing up at -- so this was under the Clinton administration now. You had a hearing at the FAA and the administrative law judge. So it was our attorney and the [office?] attorneys and TWU's attorneys that presented the case 147:00why he's -- he should not be authorized to operate an airline. He's incompetent. It was how he operated through his tenure at Eastern Airlines. The judge ruled yes. They said yeah. He should never have -be able to run another airline in this country.

LAPORTE: He had been the head of Eastern at the time that the FAA imposed, at that time, the largest fine in the history of the airline industry, for some of the substandard safety practices that he had directed employees to engage in.

FLYNN: Pencil work. Yeah.

LAPORTE: Alright. So now, as we talk about the airline industry from a broader perspective, and Lorenzo said he didn't want to operate with unions, yet we have examples in the airline industry where some of the most heavily unionized 148:00carriers are some of the most successful. Of course, I'm speaking about Southwest Airlines. Has the -- and recent startup discount carrier AirTran Airways has seven collective bargaining agreements. So there -- those two are in the process of merging. Southwest has bought out AirTran. But they are very heavily unionized. So, from your perspective, is the determinant of profitability and success in the airline industry the rate of unionization, or are there other factors that determine an airline's success?

FLYNN: I think there's certainly other factors. I think one of the benefits of unionized -- and for -- not only for airlines, but I think for all industries. When you're paying a good, livable wage and benefits, people have an interest to 149:00stay at those jobs. And as you stay at a job longer and you have that experience longer, it just inherently gives a better product and delivers a better product for whatever industry you're in. I see -- even on safety, even from viewing things from a safety standpoint, sometimes it's scary in my job today. I go out and I see all these things. Crossed every sector of our economy, pretty much. A lot of what the airlines have done in the way they converted those jobs -- you go out here in Hartsfield, and you see all the North Cargo buildings all the way 150:00down. Well, it's one big rotating door, where people come in and they'll work for a month, or two months, or three months, and then they're out. Well. Yeah, they can load an airplane, but can they load it properly? Do they -- do they have that consciousness of safety that somebody that puts their family on there every day? Are they going to provide those kind of services that they have an investment in, to making sure it's done right? But having just workers that -well, if you don't want to do it, there's a line a mile-long, waiting to step in here and take your job. That's the kind of country we want to get into. More 151:00and more, that's -- some of these jobs are turning into that. I think -- you mentioned Southwest. Southwest, their whole model is different than most of the industry out there, but a very successful model. It's really people-driven. It's driven by the -- by -- mainly by the workers on the ticket counters, and the flight crews, and baggage handlers. They can turn these airplanes around in 20 minutes. Fill them up and move them on and people are happy. People do -make that one work.

LAPORTE: Right. So the competition is based on the skills of the workers, their 152:00dedication to their job, and the craftsmanship that they bring to producing a product and level of service that consumers are pleased by and willing to pay for. If I could just ask you about some of the things that you saw and experienced as a leader of that local lodge in Atlanta during the strike against Eastern Airlines, as far as what people experienced. Initially, there was some euphoria. The community support and other union support, and the city government here in Atlanta. Then as time went on, how did people react? What happened to people in their -- in their lives as a result of that strike?

FLYNN: Well, I think one of the first things I recognized as time started moving, and the months started adding up, is the members that had the skills 153:00jobs were the ones that found it easiest to be able to find other jobs. Huge. Probably 90% without a problem finding them. Not necessarily turn wrenches on an airplane, but they had enough skills to be able to convert into other industries, which is different than our ramp. They had -- a lot of them ended up service jobs, and most of them ended up jobs being a lot less than what they were making at Eastern. I remember even going through and having a number of discussions about the importance of, when we get back to work, using that as 154:00maybe -- as a motivator to bring more skills to our people that are in the workplace there, whether it's apprenticeship or what. Pull more from the inside. I think from the family standpoint, you realized it's the entire family that's impacted by that. Those types of domestic issues and stuff start rising to the top of the ones that, if they're already having problems, it just increases it that much quicker. There were -- there were a few -- there were a few suicides 155:00and that, and I never -- I mean, I could never say, well, that's why they committed suicide, and I wouldn't ever say that. You just never know. It's such a complicated thing of why somebody does something like that. But it certainly could contribute to it. But to use it as that -- I was always hesitant of saying that's why somebody did that. I think there was enough social nets around where people didn't end up out on the street. They had family and stuff. They might have moved into an apartment or something like that. But after about -- I would say after the first nine months or so, people started coming to terms and saying they got to move on somehow or another. Hopefully, this will -- they still showed up for the picket duty and that, but they had to move on with their life. 156:00By and large, most of them did. There was a few that were -I remember I got a call -- I must have been up in D.C. for five years when somebody called. "What's going on?" type of thing. Like, "I heard -- saw a blip in the paper." It’s like - I felt kind of sorry. "Didn't anybody tell you?"

LAPORTE: Yeah. Yeah.

FLYNN: A lot of the airlines hired our mechanics. U.S. Air, Northwest. Delta wouldn't hire one. That was interesting for our people to see that. Delta -- and Delta was hiring at the time. We had some of the best mechanics in the country, because a lot of them within that age group had gone through an apprenticeship 157:00program that they used to have in Miami, and even a lot of our supervisors and foremen were graduates from that. So when it came to top-notch mechanics, Delta had the pick, but they wouldn't -- they didn't want anybody that had a union card in their pocket, for sure. Saw how many people -- and this was somewhat of an awakening of how many people were willing to cross our picket line. And -- from all over the country. Our hangar parking lot used to fill up with tanks. I remember seeing tanks from Hawaii. And coming in and paying them. They were paying them half what we were getting paid. Crossing the picket line to do the 158:00work. That was somewhat of an awakening. I think the city started getting worn out with its good feeling towards us and support of that. There was a lot of pressure coming in from other industry and that, I guess. We ended up, up in the bankruptcy court. In fact, the bankruptcy court took away our rights to picket. Remember I told you about the –


FLYNN: -- the application. Well, they took it away. And we appealed it, and the week after Eastern shut down for good, the appellate court ruled in our favor, that the bankruptcy court did not have jurisdiction to step in on picketing 159:00rights. Which is a good -- which was a good win for labor.


FLYNN: Didn't do us a lot of good, but for labor. But I think going into it and utilizing the best that we could with the city, and having that -- having the civil rights history here, and knowing that we're dealing with folks that understand how people want to keep you -- keep you down -- certainly helped us. But there was a point -- there was a tipping point there over time. People get worn out.

LAPORTE: Yeah. Well, I think of it as an extremely important precedent to set, that the bankruptcy court does not have jurisdiction, nor the right, to extinguish people's First Amendment free speech rights. You've talked about -- 160:00it came to a tipping point and people had to move on. That Eastern Airlines was not going to come to an agreement with the unions, and within 18 months, they were out of business entirely. And what about you, Mike Flynn, in moving on with your life after Eastern Airlines, after being president of that local lodge? Where did your career take you?

FLYNN: Well, it was -- see, that job at the -- that I had, it wasn't a paid position. The president's job was not a paid position, and it was -but part of our bylaws gave -- it was a two -- it was $200 a month. And I would be -- well, actually, it was -- yeah, $200 a month. And then I would get my strike pay, 161:00which was $100. So $100 a month -- a week. Strike pay. Now, towards the end, I'm -- in fact, I did a little bit of that. IATSC worked down at the convention. I probably worked two or three conventions. Go in at midnight and put it up, but...During that time, there was a bill, and I think it was in '90, the strike replacement bill that was trying to get through Congress. And the machinists -each of the unions, we were assigned, through the AFLCIO, different states. Georgia was one of ours, and Washington. So my leadership asked if I would spearhead it in Georgia and help coordinate it in Georgia. Get support with the 162:00coalitions that we have here, and the other unions, to get people. Make contact. So I worked that for about a few months. I guess four months or so. And then, shortly after that, the strike ended and I got a call from headquarters. They said, "There's a job up here for - - it's under a grant, in our safety and health department. And we know you're originally from this area. We know you'll be looking for a job, so if you're interested, come up and talk to us about it." So I went up there and I -- I really had -- up until that time, I really didn't think about what I was going to do next. It just didn't -- I was just kind of 163:00just all caught up in all of it. We went up there. It was a grant with a -- it was with a consortium of four of five different unions. Steelworkers, and the rubber workers at the time, and chemical workers. To -- it was funded through the superfund, and was cleanup protective members that worked with hazardous chemicals. Teaching 40-hour courses. So they brought me up there on that, and I started working that. And that was in '91, May of '91. We had a number of other grants under IAM CARES at the time, which no longer exists, but they received a 164:00lot of grants for project with industry, helping people with disabilities find jobs. They had different offices throughout the country. About 200 employees. And so that was actually who I initially worked for, was under the CARES. And then my boss, who was my predecessor, he made -- appointed me his assistant to the president in '95, and then when he retired in '96, I was given full reign of the department of -- the safety and health department. The apprenticeship department was in there. The community service services department was in there. 165:00And IAM CARES — IAM CARES was a huge project. Most of the IAM CARES money was from grants funds. We had another program that sprang out of IAM CARES, that sprang out of the disability, and that was a fee-for-service program with Boeing, where we had professional vocational rehab counselors that are employed by CARES, at the time, that would work with IAM members that get injured on the job, to find a way to get them back to work as soon as possible. And they worked with the union, the company, the insurance worker comp, finding an accommodation. Well. That entity is run by -- it's a nonprofit, separate 166:00nonprofit, 501(c)3. That was IAM CARES. So when I took over this job, I became president of IAM CARES, and shortly after that, we split that CARES to just handling our safety training and the vocational rehab fee-for-service program for Boeing. And we call that IAM CREST. So, currently, I'm the president of IAM CREST, director of safety and apprenticeship. CREST, we have -- I brought in a lot of other grants into CREST for worker training grants. What we do -- well, we have 22 vocational rehab counselors. These are all master's degree rehab 167:00counselors that are employees of CREST that work -- most of them work out of Puget Sound in Washington. We have two or three in Wichita, one in Portland, Oregon, and then we have two at Spirit Aerospace, which is a company that Boeing sold. So we have that group of employees. I found, working with grants, that the good thing for the union, in working with these grants, is that, under IRS rules, that we can use the money, any profits that we make, as long as we deliver the same services with those profits. So if we're teaching people how to protect their selves with hazmat, and any money that we generate from that, we can take it to a local or a district and offset the cost of staff, to pay to 168:00train them. So during the days where -- times that money's tight, it's a funding source to be able to provide safety training to members that normally would not receive certain training. Or they work for a company that won't invest in training, but they need it. So now we have -- we have the Boeing return to work program, the Spirit return to work. We have a grant with the Department of Transportation to train airline workers that handle hazardous materials. Loading and unloading aircraft, and the proper way of doing that. And that's -- and mainly we're training -- our grant is to train our members to train the rest of 169:00the members -- the rest of the workers. So it's like a train to trainer thing. So we're at United Airlines, Alaska Airlines. We were at Northwest, U.S. Air., Hawaiian. We still have our consortium with the chemical workers that train our members that work around hazardous materials. Proper emergency response and that. I have a grant with the Black Car Compensation Fund in New York City that we train limo drivers in New York City. The National Safety Council defensive driving course. It's a six-hour course, plus we add a two-hour stress -- dealing with stress course on top of that. Then the staff -- I have four fulltime staff 170:00at headquarters that are instructors, and they develop curriculum, and they do training.They either do it -- we either do it pro-bono for our districts or locals that need it, or if companies want to pay for it, we have a fee-for-service structure that goes through CREST. It can't go through the union funds, so it stays through this nonprofit entity. It's just a lot of different activity. I'm kind of the administrator of all of this, so it's kind of juggling a bunch of different balls, which I like to do. But the best part of it is a lot of the training that we provide, and I know -- I mean, through all my time at Eastern, I can remember maybe one hour of working with chem -- of hazardous 171:00materials handling. Now, they had this ValuJet that took a dive into the -- into the Everglades, and it was all about mechanics putting on a box of oxygen –

LAPORTE: Canisters.

FLYNN: -- canisters that were in the wrong area. They were ignited. But we have members -- we have them in every industry -- making missiles, aircraft, ships, railroads, manufacturing, sugar -- they're just everywhere. And we're working around some horrendous materials and chemicals and that, and what -- what - what this really gives us an opportunity to do, and I'm proud to be able to be the 172:00one to be able to make it happen, is getting that kind of training to people that just would never have gotten it. The unions, they have so much money. They get their dues, and their main function is to service, negotiate, and arbitrate. Now, this is really kind of extra above and beyond, that if we have the ability to identify these funds that are out there anyhow -- and this the funds that I was hired under, this is their 20th year with the chemical workers. Their training center is in Cincinnati. Twentieth year that they've been pulling down from these funds, putting these programs on all over the country. Thousands. I mean, I -thousands, tens of thousands of our members have gone -- have been 173:00recipients of some kind of the training related to these grant funds.

LAPORTE: That is quite a record of accomplishment in providing that level of training. The labor movement provides more training hours than any other entity beyond formal education, either at elementary, secondary, or postsecondary, and the United States military. So it is ranked pretty high in terms of the number of hours of instruction per year outside of formal education institutions. Mike Flynn, what lessons do you take away from your career with the labor movement, and in particular, your involvement with the machinists and with the Eastern Airlines negotiations and strike?


FLYNN: Well, one -- one lesson I have is, if I tried to plan this out when I was 18 years old, on what direction my life was going to take me, it would have been impossible to do that. I think it's -- the war with labor management is just ongoing. It will always be there. I always look for people within our movement that are in it for the right reasons. That are in it not for their own ego or 175:00for their -certainly they don't get rich. But are in it to be able to contribute to the betterment of others. And the labor movement gives us an opportunity to do that. I'm fortunate enough to be in a union, and when I took this position, one of the first responses, I called my boss, our international president. I asked him, "I need to go see this guy." And he goes, "Mike, you just do what you need to do. That's why I hired you. If you think it's what you need to do to get the job done, then that's all you need. You don't need to..." And I -- I mean, I take that with me every day I go. To me, that's a luxury to have someone that 176:00has that kind of confidence in you. But I know from where I started, and what I've been involved in over the years, and watching stuff grow -- and it grew because -- not me. I was part of -- a bigger part, but of the people that came along the way, and I saw that I could contribute. It's -- it's a -- I don't know how I would feel if, at the end of -- or at 56 years age, where I am now, that -- and I took a career path of a Frank Lorenzo or somebody that based my success on whether -- what my portfolio was, or my bank account was -- what that would 177:00do for me. I would -- for me, personally, it may not do anything. For me, personally, it would just be somewhat -- very empty. But looking back and saying -- you never know, especially in safety and health, if you made a difference. You don't. But you -- I certainly have to assume -- I have to assume that people -- lives are better today for some of the work that I've done along the way. I'll never win all the battles, and certainly Lorenzo taught me that one. But you want to look back and say, at least I fought a good fight, and did it for the right reasons. It wasn't just about me. People get hurt. Families get 178:00divided and all that through it. But all in all, I don't think I would have -- I couldn't have seen it going any other way, throwing in the towel with him, or just walking off. I feel I -- I feel very grateful, actually, that I've been able to have a -- have a career that I contributed something. We all say that. Feel good.

LAPORTE: Mike Flynn, we want to thank you very much on behalf of Georgia State University. We want to thank you on behalf of the Voices of Labor Oral History Project, sponsored by the Special Collections Department here at the Georgia State University Library. This interview will be reviewed and eventually posted 179:00for students and researchers here at the Southern Labor Archives. Again, our thanks for you to be willing to sit for an interview as part of the Labor Center's oral history project.

FLYNN: Thank you.

LAPORTE: Now, usually I would say (inaudible).