We owe the end of the military draft in the United States to a surprising person. Economist Milton Friedman was the father of the all volunteer military. He led the commission during the Nixon Administration that concluded conscription should be abolished, and the Nobel Prize winner often caricatured and vilified by the left became an anti-war hero.
There was certainly hope that raising the cost to the government of conducting war would lead to less war, and seemingly that hasn’t happened. But Friedman was certainly right that the U.S. could field a defense without taking away the freedom of (what were then exclusively) young men. Friedman claimed that ending the draft was his greatest achievement.
While there’s now an all-volunteer U.S. military, can the same be said about the American Airlines flight attendants corps? I wrote earlier in April that the airline was considering drafting flight attendants to return to work.
- In order to reduce costs, the airline implored flight attendants to go on leave (while pocketing the full amount of government payroll subsidies).
- Those leaves, however, can be cancelled at the airline’s whim. And now that they need flight attendants to operate a ramped up summer schedule that’s just what they’re doing.
The flight attendant job remains voluntary, of course. No flight attendant will go to prison if they refuse to fly, they’ll just lose their job and seniority with the airline.
American recalled all of its flight attendants from furlough to work (this by the way is an admission that the third government bailout – ‘payroll support program 3’ – was not necessary). Even then that’s not enough. Two hundred flight attendants who took voluntary leaves were being asked to cut their leaves short and return to work in July.
The draft language was American’s. On April 15 they told flight attendants “if we don’t get 200 volunteers, we will draft flight attendants (on EVLOA) in reverse seniority order until we reach 200 total.
They did not get 200 volunteers to return from Extended Voluntary Leave Of Absence. They got 96, and the airline is drafting 104 back to work as follows:
This is 90% good news – everyone will be back to work, American Airlines will be flying again. It’s just frustrating for the folks who agreed to take leaves from their job, save American money while the government was giving the carrier subsidies to pay everyone. Personally I’m just glad to be booking travel again – I’ve even flown American and will do so again next week. (I’ve also flown Southwest, and booked travel on United as well.)