Casting Away for Bad Allusions
A couple of weeks back, the New York Times published an article about Air India’s internal problems regarding the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplanes that are soon to be delivered to them. Reading the story, it seemed to me to be a standard labor dispute that happens when two airlines merge and the two pilot groups don’t choose to get along on the main issue of seniority, which has important ramifications for pay, route assignments, and even employment. But to the Times, it felt that this dispute was unique since it was in India, and was a status-oriented dispute that had something to do India’s ancient caste system -- though it couldn’t exactly draw a line from caste to the labor dispute.
It might help the Times to note that a very similar dispute occurred during the merger of US Airways and America West, where the US Airways pilot group attempted to send the America West pilot group to the end of the seniority list. In fact, the dispute is still ongoing, as this article indicates. Yet, no one considers that dispute an issue of “symbolic status”, as the Times makes out the Air India dispute to be. It might be a good idea for the Times to recognize that sometimes economic disputes are truly economic disputes, as opposed to something generated out of a social construct.