It's all about job security

pilot

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

LISA NAPOLI: Three weeks until Election Day and the Associated Press crunched the latest numbers on election fundraising. It looks like the Democratic challengers in some close Senate races are raking in the dough. In some states, they've even got more money than the incumbents. The AP points out that the filings aren't the whole story &mdahs; most candidates are receiving financial support from their parties.

Time now for more of our midterm election series, The Real Agenda. Those politicians are spending that money they've raised on all manner of media. But are they offering any solutions to problems people say they care about? We've asked for perspectives from some of their constituents. Like Jonathan Hobbs. He's a pilot and he's stayed with US Airways through a merger and two bankruptcies.

JONATHAN HOBBS: I chose to stay for a good reason: I had no choice. I'm almost 50 and married with three children. Two of them were heading off to college when US Airways second draconian pay cut sliced my salary in half.

I considered applying at other airlines but I've seen firsthand that decision can be foolhardy. Switching airlines is an unpalatable and irrational option.

Pilots who switch companies, regardless of flight experience. start over. Period. You loose all seniority accumulated over your career and join the ranks of interns and clerks.

At 50 years of age you get to celebrate Christmas in a cheap Philadelphia two-bedroom crash pad, a time zone away from your family. You get to eat a cheese steak and beer chaser with a dozen 20-year-old new-hire reserve pilots discussing Britney Spears' sex life while a€œBlue Christmasa€ plays in the background.

Besides, I've grown accustomed to eating my meals in the dusty familiar confines of a US Airways cockpit.

I've hung on and survived. And that's more than I can say about many of my peers. It has been a terrible journey, much too difficult for some. There were personal bankruptcies, household moves, divorces and even suicides.

But what do we have here? US Airways is having a profitable year. Finally, those of us who sacrificed income, retirement and nearly every benefit it took three decades to achieve can bask in some comfort and security.

But I remain guarded. I've seen the dark side, more than once. It could all change in an instant; fuel prices could skyrocket, the economy could lay an egg . . .

There are few certainties in life. But one is the employees at US Airways deserve a break. And two, if we're profitable for the entire year, the corporation is contractually required to share those profits with us.

I'm sure they'll enjoy passing out those checks as much as passing . . . kidney stones.

NAPOLI: Jonathan Hobbs is a pilot and novelist who lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina. In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli. Enjoy your day.

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