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Romney Linked to Union-Busting, Worker Intimidation at Key Airlines in the ’80s

Mitt Romney has often pointed to his career with Bain Capital as an indication of how he would govern if elected President. On cue, a new story from the Financial Times links a young Romney to a union suppression campaign in the 1980’s. This should be alarming, though not surprising, to any working men and women who have not yet realized the anti-worker potential that a Romney presidency presents.

US court and federal agency documents show that when Bain Capital gained control of Key Airlines, one of their first investments, they coerced and then terminated two pilots who tried to organize a union. The union vote eventually occurred and failed and two months later Bain sold the company for a large profit. In 1992, the case made it to a federal court:

“The anti-union activities in this case are not merely unfair labour practices as Key argues, but blatant, grievous, willful, deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labour Act,” Roger Foley, federal judge for the District of Nevada, wrote in 1992, in a case brought by two Key pilots.

In the autumn of 1985, two years after Bain bought Key Airlines, 21 pilots planned to organize, citing safety concerns. Key airlines then met with pilots telling them that joining a union would lose the company contracts, that Bain — which had just injected two million dollars into the company — would leave, and that their salaries and benefits would be frozen. The company successfully broke the organization efforts through fear tactics:

Two union organisers – Olen Rae Goodwin and Lawrence Schlang, a former naval aviator – were instructed to sign resignation letters, according to a separate report by the National Mediation Board, which oversees union elections in the sector. The report described the company’s excuse for this dismissal as “little more than pretext”. When a union election was finally held only two pilots voted “yes”.

When confronted with questions about the story, Romney resorted to his well-rehearsed dodge-and-distract approach, attacking President Obama instead of answering directly:

Mr Romney’s campaign referred to a statement on its website supporting the right of workers to join - or not join - a union: “To exercise that right freely, workers must have access to all the relevant facts they need to make an informed decision. This means hearing from both the union about the potential benefits and from management about potential costs.”

“Despite unemployment over 8 per cent for more than three years, President Obama continues to put the interests of labour bosses ahead of the interests of Americans looking for work,” added Michele Davis, a spokeswoman for the campaign. “By contrast, Governor Romney has grown companies and created jobs, in the private sector and as Governor of Massachusetts, and will get America working again.”

Grown companies…threatened workers…same difference.


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