Machinists Union Recaptures $3.7 Million for Airline Workers

Machinists Union Recaptures $3.7 Million for Airline Workers

Machinists Union Recaptures $3.7 Million for Airlines Workers

IAMAW District 141
11 May 2022

Recapturing back pay for unionized airline workers was the centerpiece of its grievance activity in the first quarter of 2022, according to a recent Grievance Activity Report issued by District 141 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The quarterly statistics are compiled by the unions’ District 141, which represents approximately 33,000 workers in the commercial aviation industry. 

According to the report, $42,000 in wages were returned to union members from January through March. This figure includes money won by the union in settlements, back pay, improperly applied overtime pay, and shift premium pay that managers had wrongly withheld from workers. Leaders elected to serve on Grievance Committees by union members are often tasked with enforcing contractual agreements made between workers and employers. Occasionally, companies can make payroll mistakes that take money out of the pockets of their employees. Elected Grievance Committees can step in and require that money be returned in a timely manner.

In some cases, companies intentionally deny earned income to workers. In those cases, unions may need to take court action. At non-union companies, the time and expenses required to win back lost wages in court can add up to more money than was lost in the first place. The challenges involved in taking an employer to court allow many non-union companies to steal and shortchange their employees as a regular part of doing business. 

In the final quarter of 2021, the union had secured an astounding $908,000 in lost pay, owing partly to pandemic-related retirement income that the airline workers successfully protected. 

“This is the power of collective action,” said Mike Quartuccio, an Assistance General Chairman with District 141 who has experience dealing with paycheck and wage issues. “Companies don’t make decisions to give millions of dollars in back pay to their employees out of the goodness of their wallets,” he said. “It might be a struggle and it might be frustrating, but at least, as a union, we have the power to protect what we’ve earned.”

The report also recorded 19 union members who returned to work after being wrongly terminated by their airlines. These 19 workers add to the  49 union airline employees who won back their jobs in the fourth quarter following action by the unions’ Grievance Committees at the tail end of the pandemic. 

Since 2008, Machinists and Aerospace Workers in the airline industry have won back more than $3.7 million in back pay and lost wages and returned more than 1,200 union members to work.

 
 

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EAP Peer Volunteers:

Stigma about mental health has become a very hot topic. This month we address what stigma is and some things you can do to address stigma. The Mayo Clinic has some good information that is included. 

As EAP peer volunteers we can have an impact on mental health and the stigma that is often associated with a mental health issue. Being accepting and inclusive of people experiencing a mental health issue can help others see that mental health issues are treatable and are often short term. Many of the longer term mental health issues can be managed very effectively. Let’s be the people who help others along the way and treat each other with acceptance and patience!
 

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Bryan Hutchinson, M.S.

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bhutchinson@iam141.org
Cell: 303-229-5117

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2022 Committee Conference
5 May 2022

The IAMAW District 141 Committee Conference brings together hundreds of labor leaders in the airline industry.

The Conference comes as the Machinists Union negotiates the biggest contracts in commercial aviation; the seven agreements between United Airlines and its primary workforces. These include the carrier’s Ramp and Gate Agents, Storekeepers, Security Guards, and Instructors and follow historic union agreements at American, Hawaiian, and Spirit Airlines.

This year’s Conference also comes as the Union inches closer to achieving a historic vote at JetBlue.

Despite reporting a hefty first-quarter loss, United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby recently announced that he expects record-breaking revenue over the summer flying season, suggesting the Airline had overcome pandemic-era hardships.

“The demand environment is the strongest it’s been in my 30 years in the industry,” Kirby said. “We’re now seeing clear evidence that the second quarter will be an historic inflection point for our business.”

While reporting a loss of nearly $1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2022, Kirby said the Airline expected 17% more revenue over the same period in 2019. He told investors that he expects the tidy profit for the Airline to come about even amid higher fuel prices.

Making sure that the women and men that actually do the work at United are not forgotten in all the rosy predictions is the Machinists Union.

“We made the airline successful,” said the Unions District President, Mike Klemm. “We did that. Managers didn’t do it. Company executives didn’t push back planes or load passengers onto flights,” he said. “They didn’t check a single bag. We did that.”

“Those profits are ours. We created them, and we deserve to benefit from them.”

The Union’s General Vice President, Richard Johnsen, who also spoke at the event, underscored the sentiments. “I’m not just talking when I say that we are the reason that these companies are successful. The employees are literally the reason. There’s only a United Airlines today because we made it. Because we sacrificed,” he said. “United Airlines employees in this room gave up wages that they needed for their families so that United Airlines could still have a company after 9/11.”

“I don’t say that off the cuff. We kept United Airines in business after 9/11, and now, today, we have a pandemic that we had to fight through. It was our Union, the Machinsts Union that kept United Airlines alive once again. It was our International President Bob Martinez and our Legislative Department, that lobbied hard for Payroll Support. That legislation kept us employed, covered our house notes and electric bills, and prevented any one of us from getting laid off or furloghed,” he reminded the assembled union leaders. “United is what it is, because we are who we are,” he said. 

Johnsen was recently named General Vice President for the Airline Territory, a development that he called “deeply humbling.” 

Also speaking was Airline Coordinator Tom Regan, who is also involved in negotiations with United. “United has committed to negotiating an industry-leading contract with us,” he said. “We intend to hold them to their word on that.”

While the ongoing negotiations at United were a major focus of the Conference, the assembly also discussed a wide range of issues. Among these was the Union’s use of safety cards at Hawaiian Airlines, which use a QR code to quickly link workers at the carrier to online safety reporting tools. Delegates also covered modernizing communications and the potential dangers of social media.

The continuing campaign to organize the Ground Operations workers at JetBlue was another hot topic for attendees.

“You might have noticed that there are no members of our Organizing Department here,” President Klemm said at one point during the Conference. “That’s because they’re working with JetBlue Crewmembers at this very second,” he said. “That’s how focused we are on getting these guys the Union representation they deserve,” he said.

 

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Maintaining open communication channels and an environment that encourages solidarity is critical for unions negotiating industry-leading contracts with billion-dollar firms.

A solid communication strategy allows union members to stay engaged and active. Making sure everyone can see the big picture and the vital role individual members play in the overall success of the union can often hinge on getting the basics of communications right.

Effective union communication can help get everyone on the same page and move forward with solidarity toward the same goal. But, “Getting it Right” in terms of communications isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of work.

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