Months before the Comair jet crash that killed 49 people, air traffic controllers at the Lexington airport wrote to federal officials complaining about a hostile working environment in the tower and short-staffing on the overnight shift, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press.
In identical letters sent April 4 to Kentucky's senators, Republicans Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, a control tower worker said the overnight shift, or "mid," is staffed with two people "only when convenient to management."
The Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines called for two people to be there the morning of the Aug. 27 crash, but only one was present.
"We had a controller retire last month and now we are back to single man mids," wrote Faron Collins, a union leader for the Lexington control tower workers. "I ask you one simple question. Are two people needed on the mids for safety or not? If they are, why are they not scheduled?"
Besides the letter to the senators, another Lexington control tower operator wrote to the FAA's Accountability Board on Dec. 1, 2005, complaining about a hostile work environment in the tower. That employee requested anonymity, fearing discipline against him.
"Not only do the vast majority of controllers worry about the security of their jobs, but this anxiety in the work place should be considered a legitimate safety concern for the flying public since controllers are not in a healthy state of mind while working traffic," he wrote.
What was Ronald Reagan's first big act as President? To break the Air Traffic Controller's union. While the tragedy in Lexington looks to have some connection to destroying the bargaining position of the people running the tower, what bearing does it have on the airplane attacks of 9/11?
The common element is the callous disregard for human lives and livelihoods. To this day, the Republicans are fighting having a professsional, unionized security presence in the airports. Might the erratic behavior of the commandeered jets have been picked up sooner if towers across the nation were better staffed? Could a real security screening process - with enough people with real training to operate sophisticated detection systems - have kept the Saudi and Egyptian hijackers out of the planes?
Ever-expanding profit for an ever-shrinking portion of society is the be-all, end-all for Bush, Cheney, Frist, Delay, Norquist and all the rest of the Neocon horde. They don't actually give a damn if you can't support your family or travel in safety. Pull up the ladder, bo'sun, I'm aboard is their standard operating procedure.
The signature of this contempt for ordinary Americans is their union-busting, wage-cutting, profits-above-all obsession. That someone claiming an Earned Income Tax credit is more likely to be audited by the IRS than a millionaire is pretty obscene. What is more obscene is their unwillingness to forego a penny of profits in order to preserve the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans.
The worst union boss has nothing on the racket being run by the neocons.