(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – NetJets aircraft technicians and related employees represented by the Teamsters Airline Division and Teamsters Local 284 are protesting a decision by NetJets to ban workers from wearing union buttons approved by the National Labor Relations Board. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Airline Division and Local 284 represent aircraft mechanics, maintenance controllers, aircraft fuelers, aircraft cleaners and stock clerks. The Columbus-based business jet operator is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A and BRK.B).
NetJets Aviation, Inc. and NetJets Sales, Inc. only employ 111 aircraft mechanics to work on its fleet of approximately 400 aircraft. By comparison, major airlines often employ up to 10 mechanics for every one aircraft. Workers accuse NetJets of trying to drive away qualified mechanics and support workers in favor of subcontracting critical repair work on NetJets aircraft despite customer expectations and threats to workers’ job security. The union believes the company banned union buttons in a failed attempt to hide serious labor problems over maintenance issues from customers.
“Before the ban, our members wore a standard issue ‘WTF – Where’s The Fairness’ union button on their uniforms and work clothes,” said Chris Moore, Chairman of the Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition. “The National Labor Relations Board ruled that the buttons are protected by federal labor law even when worn in front of customers. While NetJets workers are covered by the Railway Labor Act, judges and arbitrators often look to NLRB decisions in cases such as this one. Rather than banning union buttons, NetJets should reign in massive levels of maintenance subcontracting, and also pay its mechanics and safety professionals a competitive wage before their problems get any worse. ”
Last week the Teamsters filed a grievance against NetJets, and they are considering further legal action against the company. On May 30, the Teamsters sent a formal request for information to NetJets officials, including a request for copies of all correspondence between NetJets and Berkshire Hathaway relating to the union button ban. The union believes that Berkshire Hathaway Energy Chairman and CEO Greg Abel has oversight responsibilities for NetJets and may have been consulted over the decision.
“Buffett has stated that he’s not anti-union,” said Mark Vandak, President of Teamsters Local 284. “Once again, we’re seeing the difference between his words and the actions of NetJets. Wearing a union button at work is a fundamental right of workers in this country. We need to root out the source of the ban to determine whether it’s the dirty work of rogue elements at NetJets or if it comes from Berkshire Hathaway. Given NetJets’ long history of serious labor problems, it’s too early to know where our investigation will lead us.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit www.teamster.org.