SOON after Eastern's union workers walked off the job in March, management professor Jack Stevens decided to use the strike as a case study for his students at Stetson University, in DeLand, Fla. Mr. Stevens, a sometime company adviser on how to avoid unionization, was sure that the unions had made a mistake. ``When I first heard about the strike ... I thought the pilots were absolutely crazy for walking out,'' he recalls.
So did most of his students. Out of 96 business school undergraduates, only two supported labor at the beginning of the semester. Ten were neutral, and 84 were pro-management, like Stevens.
But ideas began to change as Stevens and his students dug up corporate documents, interviewed Eastern management and union officials, and compared the rhetoric of Eastern's owner, Frank Lorenzo, to his actions.
``We have not found any factual evidence that he had tried to save Eastern Airlines,'' Stevens now says. ``Management has had complete disregard for the employees.''
At the semester's end last week, 84 students were siding with Eastern's unions. There may be more facts to the case, Stevens cautions, so he has decided to spend the summer digging further and urging business schools around the US to look into the Eastern situation.
``I think it's more important than any labor case in my lifetime,'' he says. ``If management prevails in this case, it sends a message to corporate raiders: `You have a green light.' It sends a message to organized labor that job security is an illusion.''