Panhandlers in pin stripes

by James Wysong on September 7, 2004

Who are the airline executives responsible for running an entire industry into the ground?

How do they get the job, and who arranges their generous pay packages?

For the past few years, the U.S. aviation industry has seen tough times. But have their paychecks suffered?

I was shocked when the airline I previously worked for closed its doors. The company didn’t have enough money to pay the employees’ last paychecks or for the fuel to get their airplanes back home, but they did have enough to pay off the golden parachutes for the top brass.

While the employees scrambled for their pensions, the fat cats at the top got paid first.

The practice of monetarily rewarding the people in charge is said to be the only way to get quality personnel.

Hogwash, I say.

Give them their reward in the form of stock options and provide direct incentive. If they perform and do the job as they claim they can, then their bonus is well-deserved, but if the company goes into bankruptcy protection, let them share in the pain like everyone else.

Make it a win-lose situation, not a win-win.

The president of the United States, earning $400,000 a year, makes a tenth of what most CEOs of major corporations are making these days. Match their salaries with his. All too often, you hear CEOs say, “Oh, well, I tried; that will be three million dollars, please.”

In the business world today, we are starting to see the people in charge held responsible for their compensation packages and perks, but this is only the beginning.

More has to be done and people should not merely shrug it off as, “They’re the ones with all the power, what are you going to do?”

First of all, go to the stockholders’ meetings. If you don’t own stock, buy one share and by law you have a right to attend. Voice your opinion, write letters, run for a union seat, do something other than complain to your friends.

What I find completely ludicrous is that during these times of economic hardship the airlines are asking for financial assistance from the federal government. All the while airline CEOs are raking in some of their biggest bonuses ever.

I don’t know about you, but I am not inclined to give money to a panhandler in a pinstripe suit.

There is a certain airline that has changed CEOs more times than the seat cushions. Each time it does, it loses millions in retirement packages. No wonder it’s now in a deep financial crisis.

It’s kind of like my dad who married seven times. He was wealthy with his first wife, and broke by the seventh.

The airline continues to pay alimony to former CEOs in the form of compensation packages. You would think the salaries would get smaller as the company’s financial situation worsens. Not so. They just get more complicated, adding safeguards if the company goes out of business.

When the CEO claims to feel the pain while slicing up every employee’s paycheck, I want to know where his pain comes from.

Is it his guilty conscience?

My advice to the people at the top: try not to overdo the lavish gifts and first class treatment; realize that many people rely on you to be fair and to return their company to profitable times; and when you say you feel the pain, really feel it, or at least do a better job pretending.

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