A Labor Perspective From WNYLaborToday.com’s Tom Campbell: Delta CEO ‘Union-Buster’ Ed Bastian ‘Must Have Cut Class’ The Day The Founding Mission Of St. Bonaventure University Was Taught To Its Students
I Believe My Fellow Classmate & 1979 Grad Of The WNY Franciscan University Has Either ‘Ignored Or Forgotten’ The Mission Of Our Alma Mater: Treat All Members Of Our Community With Dignity And Strive To Help Them Reach Their Full Potential
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - I recently had cause to remember Ed Bastian, who - as I did - attended St. Bonaventure University in Western New York back in the 70s.
In fact, and unbelievably, I found a photo that I’d personally taken of the now-CEO of Delta Airlines during a Senior gathering just days before we received our diplomas back in 1979.
While it may not look like him at all, compared to what he looks like today - that is Ed Bastian with his arm around a young lady (whose face I’ve distorted to protect her identity) while holding a beer. And while I cannot remember who it was, there’s another classmate (who will forever remain nameless because I truly do not know who it is) behind Ed - having some fun with him, even though Ed was oblivious to what was going on (Copyright Tom Campbell/1979).
I was pretty amazed that I still had this photo in my collection of boxes of my life past because, in all fairness, I did not know Bastian very well.
He was a friend of one of my housemates, Dave Walsh, when we lived off-campus during our Senior year. And when Ed would come around to see Dave from time to time, he really didn’t interact with the others in the house, including myself, when he dropped in.
Looking back, while I found most of my fellow St. Bonaventure classmates were down to earth and outgoing, I didn’t find Bastian to be.
And as I recall now with so many years having flown by, Ed didn’t strike me as having much of a personality that would immediately attract you to befriend him.
At least that’s the way I felt at the time.
And honestly, I don’t remember anything that came out of his mouth that made an impression on me then or helped me recall now a warm memory of St. Bonas that I would still hold dear.
I’m not proud to say this, but there was just something about Ed Bastian that I didn’t care for - and whatever it was, at that time, it stopped me from making a connection and adding yet another friend at Bonas, which now may be better known for the stellar results its Men’s Basketball Program has registered in recent years as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
For those who many not know, St. Bonaventure is a private Franciscan University - the first such Franciscan University founded in the United States - with a student population of around 2,500.
And while it may be small compared to so many other major and large colleges and universities across this country, it is big of heart, as well as providing the wonderful education one receives, and the friends that you make during your four-year stay.
And all these stick with you long after you receive your diploma.
Now, getting back to Ed Bastian.
Bastion’s name has been splashed across story after story in regards to what’s being reported on the Anti-Union tactics Delta Airlines has employed in order to discourage its Ramp Agents, Cargo Agents and Flight Attendants from joining a Union.
And Delta - which low and behold is headed by the same Ed Bastian that I attended college with, has drawn public fire after the Atlanta-headquartered Airline CEO confirmed Delta was indeed behind a series of messages encouraging its Employees to buy a new video gaming system rather than pay Union Dues, according to NBC News.
The Anti-Union initiative was addressed by Bastian himself during interviews with the media, which has been seen as an attempt by Delta to dissuade those Employees from becoming Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).
Incidentally, Pilots are the only group of Unionized Workers employed by Delta Airlines.
Other Anti-Union Delta-inspired posters have called on those Employees to watch football instead, "buy a few rounds" or get "tickets and food" at a baseball game, instead of joining a Union, as part of the Airline Company's Don't Risk It, Don't Sign It Campaign.
The Delta drive quickly came under fire, prompting a response from 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, who tweeted: “Delta told Employees to buy video games instead of forming a Union. What a disgrace. Delta’s CEO made nearly $22 million in 2017 while paying Ramp Agents as little as $9/hour. I say to Delta: Stop trying to undercut Workers’ right to form a Union and negotiate for better wages."
Yup, that was a U.S. Senator stating Bastian made nearly $22 million in 2017!
Now, that’s a lot of money - and I certainly do not begrudge anyone from doing well.
In fact, good for Ed Bastian.
Sheesh, I wish I made that much.
It’s also ironic that at the same time, a newly-released study from the Executive Consulting Firm Equilar stated that while median CEO pay increased $1.1 million last year, Private Sector Worker Wages increased just 84 cents an hour.
That’s pretty amazing too, right?
But now, as the Editor-Publisher of WNYLaborToday.com - an On-Line Labor Newspaper that I own and operate, here was Ed’s name coming across the news wires concerning a major Labor News Story that our 12-year-old Labor News Media Outlet would also report on.
As I began to think about the past, it was more than just another St. Bonaventure Alum doing well, just like Neil Cavuto of FOX News (who graduated a year later in 1980 and now has an estimated net worth of $23 million) - a network that has been strongly criticized on a number of planes for its divisive and negative rhetoric, and Carl Paladino - who made an unsuccessful run for Governor of the State of New York several years ago and who was vilified for a number of racist, ugly and reprehensible remarks, including those contained in a series of e-mails targeting African-American President Barack Obama and then-First Lady Michelle Obama.
There’s no need to go into any depth or series of examples of either FOX News or Paladino. They’re easily seen on their network or can be found by Googling both - and, you’re welcome to look them up for yourself.
But Bastian’s public admittance that - yes indeed, Delta was confirming it was behind the Anti-Union messages and campaign struck a chord with me.
First off, I’ve covered Organized Labor, as a reporter in the 80s, and then worked with and for Labor Unions since the 90s in a number of capacities, including representing Labor Union clients during the time I owned and operated a Public Relations Firm.
During those years, I witnessed their struggle - first-hand - in terms of what the average Worker would decide to do with the hope of improving his or her life for themselves and their families by joining a Union - and fighting for better wages, improved health care, a retirement plan and overall safety in the workplace.
I’ve watched Workers trudge through knee-high snow on the picket line, using burn barrels to keep warm.
I’ve watched Workers march through the pouring rain and enduring sweltering temps to take a stand - and in some cases, go without so they could secure a better future.
But now, here was a former classmate of mine - who’s probably now making more than $22 million in annual earnings, at the center of a fight to make sure the people who help make his airline go and put those profits in the form of his salary in his pocket, smack dab in the center of a story that had a U.S. Senator calling him out as a poster child for corporate greed.
Now, don’t call me naïve or believe that I’ve decided to take a holier than thou stance.
I agree, people can and do change over the course of time. Growing egos, power and money tend to do that, but Bastian - like myself, as well as Cavuto and Paladino, came out of a Franciscan University that was founded was back in 1858, whose mission - in part - reads as such (www.sbu.edu/about-sbu/university-mission):
We believe in an inclusive community that values diversity as a strength. We foster and celebrate practices that nurture living and learning in an atmosphere of caring, respect and mutual accountability. We seek to enhance the quality of life in the world around us, particularly by reaching out to the poor, the less fortunate and the disadvantaged. We not only demonstrate this spirit of community on our campus, we manifest it wherever we go. At the core of our identity is a strong belief in the goodness of life and the God-given worth of every individual. We treat all members of our community with dignity and strive to help them reach their full potential. We commit ourselves to actions that empower all members of the St. Bonaventure Community and encourage their full participation in creating our future.
Well, I guess, Bastian – and quite possibly Caputo and Paladino, as well as others, might have cut a couple of classes during their time at St. Bonas during which that wonderful mission was being addressed – one that made such an impression on so many.
Or maybe Bastian has just forgotten, or worse yet, chosen to ignore those teachings.
I know many others who’ve also graduated from St. Bonaventure, who now in their professional lives, have done good things for others - along the lines of our beloved university’s stated mission.
While I don’t think Ed would even remember me or now would take the time to speak with me, if I did have a chance to talk to him, I’d ask: “What happened?”
Did your climb up the corporate ladder take you so far away from the principles you were taught and exposed to at St. Bonaventure?
Did you forget that we were taught to treat all members of our community with dignity and strive to help them reach their full potential, and that we commit ourselves to actions that empower all members of the community, as well as encourage their full participation in creating our future?
Did you forget that the core of our identity is a strong belief in the goodness of life and the God-given worth of every individual?
I would ask him: Don’t Delta Airlines’ Ramp Agents, Cargo Agents and Flight Attendants deserve to be treated with dignity as they strive to reach their full potential?
No doubt about it - Ed Bastian and Delta have the power to empower them, so they too can register a full participation in creating their and Delta’s future.
I know it’s a long drive from Atlanta to Olean, New York - but it may be worth it for Ed Bastian to use some of his $22 million-plus in salary to return to his roots and take the time to remember and think about what he was taught so many years ago.
Like they say, it’s never too late to go back home.
And you know what, it just might be the best trip he could ever make.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: For More On Delta Airlines’ Union-Busting Effort, Read the May 23rd Labor News Story, Headlined: Delta Air’s Anti-Union Campaign Criticized: The Day When Delta Workers Will Finally Be Able To Bargain For The Compensation, Benefits And Work Rules They Deserve “Is Coming Quickly - And That Has Delta Terrified”
And For More, Read: And Despite What You’ve Heard From Trump ‘Crowing About’ How ‘Great’ Our Economy Is, A New Survey Finds Employee Wages ‘Grew By Only 84 Cents Per Hour Last Year’ - While At The Same Time, CEOs Earned ‘Million-Dollar Raises’