Union members at United Airlines turn their backs on Scott Kirby at the airlines’ board meeting in Houston. 

Union Alliance Forged at United

Union Alliance Forged at United

IAM141.org
7 December 2022

Over three hundred United Airlines pilots, fleet and customer service workers, stores agents, and flight attendants picketed at the upscale Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston on Wednesday, where United Airlines held a board meeting with top executives.

Over three hundred United Airlines pilots, fleet service workers, and flight attendants picketed at the upscale Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston on Wednesday, where United Airlines held a board meeting with top executives. The demonstration comes as United executives demand that unions grant them the power to outsource employees, a move that all unions at the airline have flatly rejected. 

It also comes amid the holiday travel season, when air traffic snarls can damage an airline’s reputation with travelers. 

The Airline Pilots Association took the lead in organizing the event, which drew members from The Machinists Union, and the Association of Flight Attendants, and the Gulf Coast AFL-CIO, among other labor groups. 

CEO Scott Kirby attempted to meet with the unions, who had gathered in orderly lines encircling the hotel where executives were meeting. He emerged from the Grand Foyer at the luxury hotel’s entrance, which charges room prices as high as $5,000 per night, to the sight of hundreds of union members holding signs and silently marching along the sidewalk. Some of the signs read, “United Divided,” “Contract Now,” and “We Made United $1 Billion This Summer.”

Kirby made a few attempts at friendly banter with the pilots, promising that a contract would be locked in “very soon.” To the ramp workers, he said that there was “a single issue that was holding up the negotiations,” and that the Machinists Union was refusing to discuss the issue. He went on to say, “I can’t talk about it directly, but if we had an event like the COVID pandemic hit us again, we could face devastating consequences.”

Yet, the chances of Congress allowing the collapse of any major airline, let alone the entire commercial aviation industry, is remote.

During the pandemic, Kirby attempted to furlough thousands of fleet and customer service agents by reducing their hours from full-time to part-time. This was after accepting its share of $54 billion in funding from taxpayers to cover its entire payroll. In exchange for the funding, Kirby promised to retain the airline’s entire workforce in order to preserve the nation’s air infrastructure. He was forced to reverse course after unions took the matter to lawmakers, who in turn pressured the airline to keep its word. Kirby also signed off on a scheme to encourage mass retirements by dangling the promise of lucrative payouts to new retirees. The sharp cuts in the airline’s workforce resulted in staff shortages and delays as the pandemic waned and air travel returned.

In response to Kirby’s attempts to meet the picketing unions, the unions turned their backs on the CEO, who said, “won’t you please at least acknowledge that I’m addressing you?” The union members did not respond, instead continuing to stand silently at attention with their backs to Kirby. 

“United proudly announced that the carrier just had its third-best Thanksgiving ever,” said Machinists Union District President Mike Klemm, who attended the picket but who refused to meet with Kirby. “IAM members ensured almost 3 million customers could connect with family and friends during the Thanksgiving holiday. And how does United thank us? They refuse to protect our jobs and pay us what we’re worth,’ he continued.

In a statement to union members, Klemm said that the offers Kirby was making were “disgraceful,” and went far beyond wages.

“United management’s refusal to provide acceptable job security and wage rates for IAM-represented workers is unacceptable and disgraceful,” he said.  IAM members at United Airlines have spoken loudly and clearly that the issues of wages and job security are paramount to any acceptable tentative agreement.”  

Machinist Union Air transport Territory General Vice President Richie Jonsen, along with his Chief of Staff Edison Fraser both attended the events today to show support for the movement. Johnson, who has spearheaded the creation of a labor coalition at Delta Airlines, today announced a similar move at United.

Johnsen announced that every union at United Airlines was forming an alliance to build historic power for frontline workers as four of the five unions at the carrier were locked in contentious negotiations.

“The 78,000 people who make United fly have more than earned our fair share of the profits we create,” the joint statement from the five unions read. “We still feel the sacrifices of bankruptcy, the squeeze of the merger, and the extreme challenges of the pandemic. At every turn, we did our jobs, and we’ve fought hard for a bright future at United Airlines,” the statement continued.

“Today is that day. Together, our unions form the United Airlines Union Coalition to coordinate closely on bargaining and other issues. None of us can do our jobs without each other. We have each other’s backs in bargaining, and will stand together until we have ratified contracts that reflect the world-class airline United should be.

“We will coordinate in this round of bargaining and we will stand together for our future too. We are United.”

.

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Union Alliance Forged at United

7 December 2022

Over three hundred United Airlines pilots, fleet service workers, and flight attendants picketed at the upscale Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston on Wednesday, where United Airlines held a board meeting with top executives.

Over three hundred United Airlines pilots, fleet service workers, and flight attendants picketed at the upscale Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston on Wednesday, where United Airlines held a board meeting with top executives. The demonstration comes as United executives demand that unions grant them the power to outsource employees, a move that all unions at the airline have flatly rejected. 

It also comes amid the holiday travel season, when air traffic snarls can damage an airline’s reputation with travelers. 

The Airline Pilots Association took the lead in organizing the event, which drew members from The Machinists Union, and the Association of Flight Attendants, and the Gulf Coast AFL-CIO, among other labor groups. 

CEO Scott Kirby attempted to meet with the unions, who had gathered in orderly lines encircling the hotel where executives were meeting. He emerged from the Grand Foyer at the luxury hotel’s entrance, which charges room prices as high as $5,000 per night, to the sight of hundreds of union members holding signs and silently marching along the sidewalk. Some of the signs read, “United Divided,” “Contract Now,” and “We Made United $1 Billion This Summer.”

Kirby made a few attempts at friendly banter with the pilots, promising that a contract would be locked in “very soon.” To the ramp workers, he said that there was “a single issue that was holding up the negotiations,” and that the Machinists Union was refusing to discuss the issue. He went on to say, “I can’t talk about it directly, but if we had an event like the COVID pandemic hit us again, we could face devastating consequences.”

Yet, the chances of Congress allowing the collapse of any major airline, let alone the entire commercial aviation industry, is remote.

During the pandemic, Kirby attempted to furlough thousands of fleet and customer service agents by reducing their hours from full-time to part-time. This was after accepting its share of $54 billion in funding from taxpayers to cover its entire payroll. In exchange for the funding, Kirby promised to retain the airline’s entire workforce in order to preserve the nation’s air infrastructure. He was forced to reverse course after unions took the matter to lawmakers, who in turn pressured the airline to keep its word. Kirby also signed off on a scheme to encourage mass retirements by dangling the promise of lucrative payouts to new retirees. The sharp cuts in the airline’s workforce resulted in staff shortages and delays as the pandemic waned and air travel returned.

In response to Kirby’s attempts to meet the picketing unions, the unions turned their backs on the CEO, who said, “won’t you please at least acknowledge that I’m addressing you?” The union members did not respond, instead continuing to stand silently at attention with their backs to Kirby.

“The 78,000 people who make United fly have more than earned our fair share of the profits we create,” the joint statement from the five unions read. “We still feel the sacrifices of bankruptcy, the squeeze of the merger, and the extreme challenges of the pandemic. At every turn, we did our jobs and we’vefought hard for a bright future at United Airlines,” the statement continued.

“Today is that day. Together, our unions form the United Airlines Union Coalition to coordinate closely on bargaining and other issues. None of us can do our jobs without each other. We have each other’s backs in negotiation and will stand together until we have ratified contracts that reflect the world-class airline United should be.
“We will coordinate in this round of bargaining and we will stand together for our future too. We are United.”

 

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