I’m thrilled and grateful to have the book I’m writing about Dusty Roads mentioned by Sonia Pressman Fuentes during her Zoom speech to the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge University Writer’s Group this morning. Sonia, a feminist leader in the United States and a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), was the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s first female attorney hired in October, 1965. She wrote the legal decision that airline age and marriage rules violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Dusty was the first to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC on July 2, 1965, on behalf of her friend, now wife, Jean Montague. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Sonia, whose autobiography, “Eat First—You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You” is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of women’s rights. Her personal story about her and her family’s escape from the Holocaust in Germany is also a poignant part of her book, available on Amazon.
On July 3, 2020, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants joined in solidarity with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO and the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO in an unprecedented declaration and warning to Aviation leaders that they are “committed to ensuring that Flight Attendants do not bear the brunt of the crisis. Our wages, healthcare benefits, work rules and job protections are not the problem in this industry. The problem is one of demand which will only be resolved when the flying public feels safe to travel. Concessions cannot and will not resolve the crisis in the industry. We are putting management on notice: don’t even think about it.”
The letter later states, “As union leaders, we commit to do all in our power to avoid or mitigate furloughs. The airline industry needs an extension of the CARES Act to keep us in our jobs, getting our paychecks, and connected to our healthcare. We made sure the Payroll Support Program can only go to our pay and benefits while requiring no involuntary furloughs, stock buybacks, dividends, as well as capped executive compensation. The problem is demand, not labor costs and this federal program run with public money, our money, keeps us in our jobs and ready to return our industry to full strength. We urge our airlines to come out in support of legislation as that is the most direct way to avoid furloughs and keep us strong.”
And, “We also call on carriers to dramatically improve the early outs and voluntary leaves to allow those who need time off or a transition to retirement after years of service. And an extension of the Payroll Support Program ensures we all get paychecks for an additional six months, a vital bridge to regain confidence in air travel and much closer to a vaccine.
We must not let management set up a false choice of pitting our careers against our contracts. Staffing at the airlines is a function of flight schedules, and passenger demand. Cutting sages and work rules will not bring our jobs back. It simply means those remaining at work will work for less. And those returning from furlough would come back to lessened career expectations and diminished jobs. Se know from experience it can take years or decades to recover from concessions, impacting Flight Attendants of all seniority levels long after the crisis has passed and profitability is restored.
“On behalf of tens of thousands of Flight Attendants across the industry, we stand united in our opposition to concessions. Flight Attendants must not be allowed to bear the burden of the aviation crisis. When the industry recovers, and it will, we are committed to retaining our contracts intact and building even more improvements for our Flight Attendant profession.”
To view the entire letter, click on the following link to it: https://mailchi.mp/apfa.org/flight-attendant-unions-unite-against-concessions
Barbara “Dusty” Roads and I want you all to know that we stand in solidarity with you too! This is a good example of why unions are necessary.
Update: I have a new title for my book proposal that I think captures the essence of my biography about Dusty Roads much better than the other titles. It’s DUSTY ROADS—THE JOURNEY THAT CHANGED AMERICA’S AIRLINE CULTURE. I thought of it as I rewrote my book proposal last month. I realize the title could change again in the future, but for now, this is how I will be marketing the title to agents. Tell me what you think by sending me an email via the form on my “Contact” page. Thanks!
Yes, I have worked hard for the past two years and have made substantial progress accumulating and organizing all the information I need to continue writing the book. I even changed the title, taking Gloria Steinem’s advice to heart when I met with her last year.
On October 23rd, I finished transcribing the Dusty Roads and Jean Montague interviews. It was important to me that I do this work myself so I could capture the inflections, tones, and emotion in their voices as they were speaking about their experiences as flight attendants. I also annotated each interview on what facts and details need further corroboration.
These notes will help during my research visits to the Library of Congress (LOC), the EEOC, the FAA, Cleveland Recorder’s Office, Gates Mills History Museum, and the APFA union archives in Dallas. The LOC Women’s Studies Dept. mentioned that all the information I need there is still on microfiche! That ought to be a blast to the past when I get there.
There were over 150 hours of 85 interviews to transcribe. Hardcopies of the over 550 pages now reside in two 3-inch binders in my office, and the MS-Word files and recordings are on multiple backups. I have more material than I probably need but that sure is better than not enough. As frustrated as I was at how long it was taking, I now know it was worth every minute I spent which was about 2 to 3 hours per interview.
By New Year’s Day 2020, I accomplished another major milestone. I finished indexing 598 topics of varying lengths, covered in the interviews I had with Dusty and Jean. Now I can look up any topic on her life by interview number and page number on my computer or in the printouts. Reading and annotating every interview to create the index was some of the most tedious work I’ve ever done but, it will serve as a handy guide to her life. Now, I’m culling, cutting, and pasting the information into the Chapter structure of the book—and I even added a new Chapter.
Biography, as a genre, is not for the faint of heart as it takes a long time to interview, research, and write with historical accuracy. Read Robert Caro’s “Working” to get an idea of what it takes. It took over four years to get all the information I needed from Dusty and Jean. But that was just the beginning. I wish I realized that sooner. So, I know I am doing the right thing in taking my time with all the details and minutia. I’m excited I finished creating such a valuable historical archive on Dusty’s life as a flight attendant, labor rights leader, and legislative lobbyist.
Now, I can move forward on writing and rewriting what I’ve already written, including query letters and the book proposal to send to interested literary agents. It was the right thing to do to stop hunting for an agent until I had all this done. It won’t be until after my editor edits what I’m writing now, though, that I’ll be looking again. Stay tuned for more on that and my plans for pre-publicity soon.