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Delta pilots rally for their airline in face of US Airways bid
Delta Pilots
Delta Airlines Winford Speakman, right, and fellow captain R.B. Vaughn, show their support for an independent Delta, as do other employees during an anti merger rally held on the first anniversary of the airline's filing for bankruptcy, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006, in Atlanta. U.S. Airways is attempting a hostile take over of Delta. - photo by Associated Press
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — Nearly 3,000 pilots, their families and other officials gathered Wednesday for a rally to support keeping Delta Air Lines an independent carrier based in Atlanta.
    Delta Capt. Tom Winecoff said the event was intended send an overwhelming message to US Airways that Atlanta-based Delta opposes a merger.
    ‘‘That message is as clear as we can put it: Do not mess with our company,’’ he said.
    Capt. Lee Moak, chairman of the Delta pilots’ union said US Airways was trying to profit from Delta’s restructuring efforts while at the same time attempting to rid itself of a competitor.
    Delta employees booed US Airways and its CEO Doug Parker, who was not present. Moak said pilots will not modify their contract in any way that allows Parker to ‘‘steal control of our company.’’
    ‘‘We have another message for Doug Parker. You have underestimated your opponent. Doug, go back to the desert of Arizona. Go back to your unfinished merger business at US Airways and America West. Because thousands of loyal Delta employees in this room today are telling you — loud and clear — that Delta Air Lines is our company ... and we are not for sale.’’
    Many in the crowd wore buttons saying ‘‘Keep Delta My Delta.’’ Others outside the Georgia International Convention Center carried signs with the same message.
    US Airways later issued a statement acknowledging Delta employees’ concerns but predicting they will support the merger proposal after they learn more about it.
    The rally was called to protest Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways’ $8.7 billion bid to take over Delta. US Airways disclosed the hostile takeover Nov. 15.
    Delta’s management also opposes the merger.
    A pilot on the stage asked the crowd, ‘‘Is this merger going to go through? Do you want to move to Philly?’’
    The crowd shouted, ‘‘No.’’ US Airways has a hub in Philadelphia.
    The US Airways statement said, ‘‘We understand that some Delta employees might have mixed feelings about the merger, especially based on what they may be hearing from management.’’
    It went on to say, ‘‘We are confident that as employees come to better understand the stability that this merger will create for our new team, they will come to support it.’’ The company asserted that US Airways ‘‘accomplished our most recent merger last year without a single involuntary mainline furlough and we will do the same in combining Delta and US Airways.’’
    Some prominent Georgia politicians attended the rally to show the pro-Delta group their support.
    U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said, ‘‘This proposed deal is a good deal for US Airways; it’s a bad deal for Delta, and we’re opposed to it.’’
    U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, also a Georgia Republican, said, ‘‘I have seen employees pay the price to keep this airline going. You have earned the right for Delta Airlines to be your airline.’’
    U.S. Rep. David Scott, a Democrat whose district includes part of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, likened US Airways to a ‘‘vulture in the night.’’ He said US Airways is un-American because it buys foreign planes while Delta flies American-made planes.
    Republican Congressman Tom Price said a merger would result in at least a 10 percent job reduction for Delta. He did not say where he got the figure.
    ‘‘A merger is by no means necessary for Delta,’’ Price said.
    Capt. Jay Kuenzle, 49, from Roxbury, Conn., flies the Delta Shuttle routes from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Boston and Washington.
    He said, ‘‘This merger is bad for everybody — not only Delta employees but US Airways employees as well.’’ He said the merger would cause a duplication of services between the two airlines and predicted ‘‘both companies would suffer job losses.’’
    He also said the Delta Shuttle service that he flies would likely be sold to another airline if the merger happens.
    ‘‘It’s a very profitable operation, and we would not want that,’’ he said.
    Francisca Taylor, 35, of Atlanta, a ramp agent who deals with luggage for the airline, came to the rally on her day off.
    ‘‘We just hope it don’t happen, and we know it’s not because there’s a lot of us here to support Delta,’’ Taylor said.
    Emoni Davis, 30, from Fairburn is a ticket agent.
    ‘‘I feel positive about the company and that we are a stand-alone airline, and there will be a lot of positive things in the future’’ for Delta,’’ Davis said.
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