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Strong Arm Tactics By Midwest Services Provoke Controllers To Picket - (6/26/1997)

Strong Arm Tactics By Midwest Services Provoke Controllers To Picket SUN VALLEY, Idaho - Urinating in the lavatory, forfeiting vacations, throwing up in trash cans because no one can take sick leave - all are "business as usual" at Midwest Services at Hailey, Idaho, one of several air traffic control towers contracted by the company nationwide. These and the unreasonable termination of an exemplary employee caused the nation's largest air traffic control organization to picket the contractor. "When Hailey tower controllers go to work, they have to be ready for anything," said James Ferguson, National Air Traffic Controllers Association Northwest Mountain Region vice president. "They must be prepared with food, water, anything they think they'll need, because they'll be working eight hours with no time off to go to the bathroom, lunch or for coffee. What's worse, Midwest controllers are desensitized to this kind of treatment because they are so used to it." Midwest Services employs four people at the Hailey facility and approximately 260 nationwide. Until recently, Dan Gearhart had been a controller for two years at the tower that services an influx of private, commercial and charter aircraft coming in and out of the well known resort area. On April 30, he was fired for questioning company work rules that changed daily and because of his leadership in unionizing the four-person controller workforce to counter the company's policy of abuse toward workers. Hailey controllers are routinely required to work over the legal limit of six straight days. Regardless of experience and skill level, all controllers are paid the same rate. Equipment is old, broken down and often out of service for months. Midwest management does not pursue installation of a badly needed radar system at the tower. The facility is short staffed. As a result, remaining workers cannot call in sick or take time off - if they did, the tower would have to shut down. "Hailey Tower has what you could call 'precious cargo' flying in and out of Sun Valley," Ferguson said. Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzeneger, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are frequent Hailey travelers because they have homes or other property in the area. "If Midwest thinks it can escape NATCA's scrutiny because Hailey is a relatively small tower out in the boonies, contracted out and not run by the Federal Aviation Administration, then it is very much mistaken," Barry Krasner, NATCA president, said. Controllers from around the country and members of NATCA's National Executive Board will picket Midwest Services June 26 and 27.

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