"Fifty years after its foundation in struggle, sacrifice and tragedy, the airline pilots of America, although not quite back to square one, are still facing the fundamental questions their forebears faced in 1931. Can they stand up and fight the good fight, always keeping in mind that justice and virtue do not always prevail, and that `God,' as Napoleon put it, `is on the side of the big battalions'? Are modern airline pilots made of the same stuff as the men who created ALPA during the era of the wooden wings? History is waiting for its answer."
The final paragraphs of Flying the Line, by George E. Hopkins.
Those words were written three years before the 1985 United pilots' strike. United's pilots, against substantial odds, fought a fierce assault against their profession by a multi-billion dollar corporation in a demonstration of professional pride and solidarity that would surely have made the men with wooden wings proud. Perhaps history now has its answer. But as the events of four years ago are remembered, it is important to recognize how the strike came about, and that the strike was just one part of a much broader effort by United Airlines management to radically and permanently reduce the salaries and working conditions of all pilots-an objective apparently motivated simply by the desire for the financial windfall it could bring the corporation. However, when the strike had thwarted their efforts, the corporation set out to accomplish the goal in another way. "We thought the strike was the culmination of the struggle," says J.B. Cockrell, one of the longest serving former members of the UAL-MEC. "But what we didn't understand at the time was that the strike wasn't even the mid-point of the battle. The corporation still hadn't given up their ultimate goal of getting our wallets away from us. Only their method had changed."
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