on Food Stamps
October 12, 2009 --- We're on the descent
from 20,000 feet in the air when the flight attendant
leans over the elderly woman next to me and taps me on
"I'm listening to Lady Gaga," I say as I remove
just one of the ear buds. I know not this Lady Gaga, but
her performance last week on SNL was fascinating.
"The pilots would like to see you in the cockpit
when we land," she says with a southern drawl.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"No. They have something to show you." (The
last time an employee of an airline wanted to show me
something it was her written reprimand for eating an in-flight
meal without paying for it. "Yes," she said,
"we have to pay for our own meals on board now.")
The plane landed and I stepped into the cockpit. "Read
this," the first officer said. He handed me a letter
from the airline to him. It was headlined "LETTER OF
CONCERN." It seems this poor fellow had taken three
sick days in the past year. The letter was a warning not
to take another one -- or else.
"Great," I said. "Just what I want -- you
coming to work sick, flying me up in the air and asking
to borrow the barf bag from my seatback pocket."
He then showed me his pay stub. He took home $405 this
week. My life was completely and totally in his hands for
the past hour and he's paid less than the kid who
delivers my pizza.
I told the guys that I have a whole section in my new
movie about how pilots are treated (using pilots as only
one example of how people's wages have been slashed and
the middle class decimated). In the movie I interview a
pilot for a major airline who made $17,000 last year. For
four months he was eligible -- and received -- food
stamps. Another pilot in the film has a second job as a
"I have a second job!," the two pilots said in
unison. One is a substitute teacher. The other works in a
coffee shop. You know, maybe it's just me, but the two
occupations whose workers shouldn't be humpin' a second
job are brain surgeons and airline pilots. Call me crazy.
I told them about how Capt. "Sully"
Sullenberger (the pilot who safely landed the jet in the
Hudson River) had testified in Congress that no pilot he
knows wants any of their children to become a pilot.
Pilots, he said, are completely demoralized. He spoke of
how his pay has been cut 40% and his own pension
eliminated. Most of the TV news didn't cover his remarks
and the congressmen quickly forgot them. They just wanted
him to play the role of "HERO," but he was on a
more important mission. He's in my movie.
"I hadn't heard anywhere that this stuff about the
airlines is in this new movie," the pilot said.
"No, you wouldn't," I replied. "The press
likes to talk about me, not the movie."
And it's true. I've been surprised (and slightly annoyed)
that, with all that's been written and talked about
"Capitalism: A Love Story," very little
attention has been paid the mind-blowing stuff in the
film: pilots on food stamps, companies secretly taking
out life insurance policies on employees and hoping they
die young so the company can collect, judges getting
kickbacks from the private prison industry for sending
innocent people (kids) to be locked up. The profit motive
-- it's a killer.
Especially when your pilot started his day at 6am working
at the local Starbucks.