NWA execs should sacrifice pay

Is it too romantic to expect captains of commerce to go down with their sinking ships? Executives of American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American West Airlines and Continental Airlines don’t think so. They all gave themselves pay cuts, if they are compensated at all. Yet the executives at Northwest Airlines are getting paid like it was 1999. After nearly 10,000 layoffs, Northwest executives provided only lifeboats for themselves.

At first glance, reducing Northwest CEO Richard Anderson’s $2,950,817 compensation or President Douglas Steenland’s $2,945,346 compensation doesn’t seem significant when compared to the billions in company revenues and costs, as reported in the company’s 10-K. Yet Steenland is asking for others, namely taxpayers, to help financially support his company without himself making sacrifices.

In a statement to the Minnesota House Committee on Taxes, Steenland said any savings, even in the range of “thousands of dollars,” is important. So if thousands of dollars in public money would help, it stands to reason that a few hundred thousand, if not millions, of Northwest’s dollars would also help out.

The decision to not reduce his own pay is in complete contradiction of his statement: “We have to row this boat together. This is about focusing on what’s good for the
airline. It’s not about focusing on what’s good for any one individual.” Well, it’s time Northwest executives focused on a few individuals – themselves – in order to help the entire boat.

Northwest’s losses totaled more than $226 million in the first six months of this year. And in that time, executives didn’t lower their salaries. Instead, they decided on solutions such as removing lunch from flights and laying off workers.

But a tangible effect isn’t the only issue right now. They need to send a message to the thousands of employees Northwest laid off and to the thousands of other employees who will lose jobs due to ripple effects. A message of morale will tell employees, past or present, when times are tough, they are tough for everyone. And times are extraordinarily tough for Northwest employees right now. With no advanced notice, some employees were told to pack their offices and desks and clear out, according to an Associated Press business report. Yet while these employees were being shoved off the ship, Steenland and the other Northwest executives have left their cruise line compensations intact. With analysts predicting up to 100,000 layoffs in the airline industry, its time for Northwest’s executives to abandon their staterooms and free up space for workers.