What Comes After "Goodbye"?
made as much as $72,000 a year. Now, after being laid off by United
Airlines in its desperate attempt to restructure, former workers at
the company's state-of-the-art maintenance facility in Indianapolis
(IN) are lucky to be getting $336 a week in unemployment benefits.
When you look beyond the faceless numbers of workers declared no
longer necessary by United and other airlines, this is what you
see: Two thousand maintenance workers in Indianapolis alone,
scrambling for any job they can find.
Mid-life Career Changes
Ken Grady, a 43-year old laid-off United worker, told the
Indianoplis Star the he walked into the unemployment office and
told his story. But when employees at the benefits office saw his
pay stub, they "said I made too much money," Grady said. "I just
laughed in their faces and walked out." Grady is now driving a bus
and going to school to become a paramedic.
"There's some people who say, 'I need a job right now. I don't
care what it is.'" said Michael Higgins, a manager at Goodwill
Industries of Central Indiana, in an interview with The Star.
"They'll go down to Home Depot."
Higgins' agency runs the Air Project, a federally-funded program
aimed at helping laid-off airline workers get back into the
workplace. Brian Connors, a laid-off mechanic, says the United job
"the best I ever lost." Now, he's working on a tip he got from the
Air Project about a career as a railroad conductor. It's a "good
union job," he said.
But, after working for the airlines, the job market looks much,
much tougher than it used to, says Connors. He tells the Star,
laid-off United workers "have to let go of United Airlines and look
at today's working environment. . . . People's expectations were
just phenomenal. They thought they were going to walk into a job at
$25 an hour or $35 an hour. I don't think there's going to be a lot
of people doing that right now. A&P (airframe and powerplant)
mechanics are not in demand. What's in demand are people willing to
work and do their time and make the best of a situation."
The Promised Land No More
workers at United's Indianapolis base (right, which, along with a
similar facility in Oakland, is now slated by the airline for
closure) were lured there because of the relatively low cost of
living and the laid-back lifestyle of the Midwest. "It was going to
be the promised land," said Patricia Gibson, who was handed a pink
slip by United. She tells The Star she's now thinking about work in
the medical field.
"They had families. They bought these new homes. Now it's 'What
do I do?' They trained for years," her husband, James, said. "They
had families. They bought these new homes. Now it's 'What do I do?'
They trained for years," Mr. Gibson told the newspaper.
While some of those laid off want to remain associated with
aviation, others are throwing in the towel. "There's a lot of us
who said we'll never touch another airplane as long as we live,"
Ken Grady told The Star. "United put such a sour taste in our
mouth. We're done with it."