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Delta workers battle bid

Employees rally at TIA to protest a hostile takeover attempt by US Airways. They say a merger would mean job losses, plus high er prices for consumers.

By STEVE HUETTEL
Published January 20, 2007


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TAMPA - Donna Nigro moved to Tampa from Boston four years ago to stay with Delta Air Lines after the company closed the reservations center where she worked.

Her bedroom has a "Delta wall" with three company service pins, postcards from the airline's Atlanta headquarters and a framed poster of a 1940s-era Delta stewardess.

Nigro and some 40 fellow Delta employees rallied at Tampa International Airport on Friday as part of a campaign to build public opposition to the $10.2-billion hostile takeover bid by US Airways.

"Make no mistake, this will mean good-paying job losses and high prices for consumers here in Tampa," said Bill Kessler, a pilot and union officer from Atlanta.

Delta wants to emerge from bankruptcy court protection by mid-year as an independent carrier. US Airways says a merger would create the largest U.S. airline, with $1.65-billion less in annual costs.

Delta employees are skeptical. They question how US Airways could cut 10 percent of the combined fleets and promise not to lay off "frontline" workers, those outside the management and administrative jobs.

The second-largest airline at Tampa International, Delta employs 800 workers in Tampa, about half of them at its West Shore reservations center.

The US Airways merger plan faces lots of scrutiny, from Justice Department antitrust lawyers, Delta creditors and a U.S. Senate committee that will hold hearings Wednesday.

A Delta employees group, the Delta Board Council, has used a share of its company funding to finance a lobbying campaign called "Keep Delta My Delta."

The council distributed thousands of buttons to flight attendants, ticket agents and other employees. There's a Web site KeepDeltaMyDelta.org with a state-by-state map showing potential local job losses and an online petition opposing the takeover.

In Tampa on Friday, employees signed a poster-sized version of the petition and cheered as Kessler urged them to send US Airways chief executive Doug Parker a message -"an emphatic no" to the merger.

"We have a lot of spirit," said Nigro, 55, carrying her framed poster. "The skies wouldn't be the same without Delta."

Information from the Wall Street Journal was used in this report. Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

[Last modified January 19, 2007, 23:00:42]


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