Dave Lehive gets District 141 President and Directing General Chair Mike Klemm on record with updates and news on negotiations, COVID recovery and vaccinations, and other hot topics. This 141 Report is a must-see! 

141 Report: Interview with Mike Klemm, PDGC of District 141

Aug 6, 2021

Dave Lehive gets District 141 President and Directing General Chair Mike Klemm on record with updates and news on negotiations, COVID recovery and vaccinations, and other hot topics. This 141 Report is a must-see! 

We begin with Mike telling his story about how he “grew up” at JFK Airport in New York City and first became a Shop Steward at Local Lodge 1322 in 1999. He was elected Grievance Committee Representative two years later, and in 2006 won election as Committee Chair for JFK and LGA. He was later elected Assistant General Chair of District 141, becoming President and Directing General Chair in 2015. 

The conversation goes right into contract negotiations, beginning with the successful joint collective bargaining agreement signed with American Airlines 18 months ago. That agreement raised the bar for wages, benefits, and work rules for the entire airline industry, earning the highest rate of approval for ratification of any contract in the history of District 141. 

Assistant General Chair Tony Gibson is leading negotiations with Spirit Airlines, seeking improvements to the first contract reached with that carrier. The process is expected to continue through the fall. 

We move on to Hawaiian Airlines, where ongoing expedited negotiations are modeled after the successful process that was used with United Airlines in 2016. Delays due to COVID restrictions have slowed down the process, and both sides differ on key issues, such as wages, benefits, job protections, and scope. Mike is looking forward to a quick resolution at the next scheduled meeting in the next 4 to 6 weeks. If an agreement is not reached, the union will end expedited negotiations and will proceed to negotiations per Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, which sets the legal framework for collective bargaining in the airline industry. 

United Airlines presents the biggest challenge to successful negotiations because of the airline’s business model, which relies heavily on business and international travel – two areas that have been the slowest to see a post-COVID recovery. United is still operating fewer flights and offering lower fares than in 2019, although executives predicted a return to profitability in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. These factors, along with the new executive leadership at the airline, require a careful assessment of conditions before jumping into a full negotiations process. The negotiations were paused in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, and to dedicate resources to protecting jobs and scope during the pandemic. 

Mike reminds us that United enjoyed the highest profits in its history before the pandemic thanks to the hard work and dedication of Machinists Union members. District 141 plans to survey members before deciding if expedited negotiations are still the best alternative to reach an industry-leading contract that rewards that hard work. Negotiators will evaluate how many issues need to be addressed to have a more defined agenda before a planned meeting with United negotiators in the fall. 

Klemm also comments on United’s policy announced today that will require all US-based employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID by October 25, 2021. As an incentive, the company is offering a paid day off for employees who upload vaccination records to the United intranet before September 20, 2021. 

Today’s announcement reverses Kirby’s statement he made in January of this year when he said, “I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory. We need some others…to show leadership, particularly in the healthcare industry.” District 141 stands by the position shared with members at that time, encouraging incentives, not mandates. “We expected better collaboration between United’s executives and the airline’s unions on this critical issue. Clearly, we are working with a different regime, the Oscar Muñoz style of management is over,” said Klemm.

In related news, contract negotiations with Flagship Facility Services in SFO progressed quickly under the leadership of AGC Troy Rivera and members there ratified a contract in June. 

Brother Mike Klemm leads the largest district in the IAMAW, which has doubled its membership numbers since 2008, when most of the executive board members took office. Yet, the leadership is focused on the needs of every member and returns every call and answers every email. The efforts of district officers to date have saved the jobs of 29 members who were wrongly terminated in 2021, with 1,200 jobs saved since 2008. They have also won over $190,000 in bypass and back pay in 2021, and close to $3 million since 2008. 

Dave and Mike describe how every department in the District serves an important function for members, from Safety to Education, Legislative and MNPL, Community Service, and EAP.

During Klemm’s tenure, he has led a team that has implemented the GSAP safety program at American, has made member education available to all locals, has increased fundraising to support our allies in elected office, and is currently expanding community service programs so they serve the needs of the communities where our members live. The Employee Assistance Program serves members facing many mental health issues besides alcohol and drug abuse that have become more prevalent during the pandemic. And the Communications team keeps everyone informed because an informed union member is a powerful union member. 

Finally, Mike and Dave speak about the importance of organizing and how it relates to everything District 141 does. Non-union carriers like jetBlue and Delta spend millions every year to keep out unions because they know we will negotiate a seat at the table, respect, and a better quality of life for workers. When we negotiate contracts, they set a higher standard for non-union workers as well. 

“Could you imagine how powerful we would be if everybody in the airline industry was in a union?” asks Mike, in a call to action. 

There’s no time to waste, we have work to do.