FROM WOODEN WINGS
IV. VINDICTIVENESS 101
If one word characterized this period, it was vindictiveness.Ferris and his supporters were clearly humiliatedby the defeat of1985. The humiliation and anger were magnified by the fact thatFerris had predicted with such certainty to the rest of the company and the industry that ALPA would be crushed. Dick had a vindictive streak in him unlike anything I've ever seen," said Hall. "I think he was smarting something fierce that we had cost him all that money, that he had taken us on and had not been successful in accomplishing what he'd wanted. He also felt he had been misled by his own people which I'm sure just infuriated him to no end. There is no doubt his objective was to try to wreak as much revenge on the pilot group as he could for what they'd done to him. I think that's why he took such a vindictive stand on the 570."
The vindictiveness took the form not only of punitive action, but of a double standard toward striking and non-striking pilots. No less than ten 570 pilots were terminated-almost all of them under highly questionable circumstances. The pilot group became subject to standards of discipline that apparently were not applicable to non-striking pilots. An onerous and demeaning code-of-conduct was unilaterally imposed on the pilot group that was so vague that a pilot could be charged with an offense for doing just about anything management didn't like. In one of the more obvious attempts to weaken ALPA's effectiveness, David Pringle, then United's Sr. V.P. of Human Resources, declared that ALPA would no longer be permitted to represent pilots during investigative hearings, even though discipline was likely to result. Lloyd Barry was, like John Ferg, a close ally of Ferris and seemed to share Ferris' vindictiveness toward the pilots. Barry was not viewed as a particularly able manager-even before the strike. His management style seemed awkward and mediocre. Prior to the strike, Barry had joined Ferris in many of the threatening communications directed at the pilots. After the strike, the antipathy between Barry and the pilots seemed mutual. In fact, the pilots' contempt for Barry seemed to feed on his disdain for them.
Perhaps what most clearly characterized the ill-will between Barry and the pilots were the "yellow-ribbons." After the strike the company had refused to rehire many of the striking flight attendants whose union had supported ALPA's strike. The pilots were angered by this and appalled by a number of other vindictive actions taken toward the flight attendants. Some pilots began wearing small yellow ribbons under their ALPA pins as a demonstration of their gratitude and support. Barry responded by ordering all pilots to remove the ribbons. Soon most striking pilots were sporting the yellow ribbons. Said one insightful pilot at the time, "If Barry wanted the ribbons off, he should have ordered the pilots to wear them."
Barry seemed threatened and frustrated by his lack of control over the pilots. He apparently didn't realize that it was not control he had lost-but credibility. So Barry sent a letter to all management employees instructing them that they were now authorized to give orders to any United pilot and the pilots were obligated to comply with their directives. However, most supervisory personnel had enough common sense to ignore Barry's letter. One Los Angeles-based captain took great pleasure in demonstrating the illogic of Barry's new policy. He requested that a ramp supervisor present him with his 25-year wings.