Mechanics Warn of Unrest, Threaten to Strike
In March, hundreds of United Airlines mechanics protested the airline’s contract offer by picketing outside key maintenance bases at the San Francisco, Houston and Orlando airports.
Earlier in the week, mechanics voted down United’s contract proposal by 93 percent. Mechanics also voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. Over 9,000 mechanics at United are represented by the Teamsters Union, which is petitioning the National Mediation Board for a strike release.
The mechanics held picket signs that read, “Millions for UAL Execs—Peanuts for Passengers and Mechanics.” Line mechanics and technicians at other United facilities across the United States also participated by wearing “Tell UAL: NO” stickers at their workplaces.
“The Teamsters have a long history of taking action to right injustices against workers by employers who put profits over people,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “We stand with our United mechanics. On behalf of the 1.4-million-member Teamsters Union, we are committed to getting these mechanics an agreement that respects their work and their dedication.”
“The mechanics are not sitting on the sidelines. These men and women are loyal, highly skilled individuals who deserve better than United Airlines’ substandard offer, especially considering that the company is earning record profits and spending billions to buy back stock. They’re rightly angry at United and voiced their frustrations by picketing at key facilities,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division.
“I’m out here today because United Airlines shows no respect for our work or for the years of sacrifices we made to save this company,” said Deborah Ward-Crummey, a 27-year mechanic at United in San Francisco. “United’s proposal would allow aircraft maintenance to be outsourced, which we believe is not safe for passengers or the company’s long-term stability. It also fails to secure family health care protections, which will hurt my family and families across the nation.”
“These longtime mechanics will be taking their message to United’s customers and investors next, all of whom stand to lose if the company continues to treat its employees badly,” Bourne said.
Making Themselves Heard
Teamster airline mechanics haven’t just been making themselves heard outside maintenance bases. Earlier in 2016, hundreds of aircraft mechanics who traveled from 10 airports across the U.S. protested against UAL at JP Morgan’s annual Aviation, Transportation & Industrials investor conference.
The protest followed two weeks of picketing actions by United Airlines mechanics and technicians at airports across the country, including San Francisco, Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago O’Hare, Newark, LaGuardia, Washington Dulles, Cleveland, Boston Logan, Houston and Orlando.
The mechanics held picket signs that read, “United Airlines Execs: Don’t Loot Mechanics’ Healthcare & Profit-Sharing” and “United Airlines Mechanics STRIKE – Not Yet.” They also distributed leaflets to conference attendees that read, “Investor Alert: Risky Stock Buyback May Trigger Costly United Airlines Strike.”
“United mechanics are only asking for a contract that does right by their families. These workers sacrificed to save United and now that the company is making billions in profit, it needs to recognize that sacrifice. The Teamsters are ready and willing to strike if United will not agree to a fair contract for these workers," said George Miranda, Teamsters International Vice President At-Large and President of New York’s Joint Council 16.
“We voted down United’s proposed contract and authorized a strike because United betrayed us,” said Jay Koreny, a 29-year mechanic at Dulles Airport in Virginia. “We sacrificed so much, including our retirement security, to save United and help it come out of bankruptcy and earn record profits. United promised that when things got better, we would all see better days. Now top executives are enriching themselves while asking us to basically pay for our own raises. I hope they’re ready for a strike, because we sure are.”
In United’s bankruptcy, mechanics lost their pensions and stock, and many lost their jobs to massive outsourcing.
“United’s top executives get nearly 40 percent of their compensation in stock, and spending company cash to buy back stock will certainly increase the value of their shares. Eight UAL executives have reaped more than $6.5 million from cashing in options and buybacks over the past year, and that’s not right when the company refuses to give the mechanics a fair contract,” said Ken Hall, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer.
“Many of us have given our entire careers to United and stuck with them for decades. We traveled from all over the country to send United a strong message today: After everything we gave up, it’s time for the company to start keeping its promises to us,” Koreny said.