United is placing the biggest new aircraft order in its history, a total of 200 MAX jets from Boeing plus 70 aircraft from Airbus, and will hire 25,000 new employees in the next 5 years to support that investment in their fleet.
Read the Official Announcement
25,000 New Hires, 500 New Planes.
“United Next” Will Build a Bigger United and a Stronger IAM
United’s CEO went on a media blitz this week with bullish news on how he wants to direct the airline post-pandemic.
Scott Kirby began his day on Tuesday with early morning interviews on CNBC and other news outlets, before he joined members of his executive suite at Hangar 54 at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey for twin live presentations. The first event was reserved for VIPs and media, while the second had an in-person audience of United employees and was also live-streamed on the airline’s intranet. Admission to both events was by invitation only.
As the temperature in Newark hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit at noon, Kirby shed his suit jacket to share the good news: United is placing the biggest new aircraft order in its history, a total of 200 MAX jets from Boeing plus 70 aircraft from Airbus, and will hire 25,000 new employees in the next 5 years to support that investment in their fleet. The news was welcomed by representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at both United and Boeing. The IAM represents 28,000 airport and call center workers at United, the largest group of unionized workers at the carrier. The union also has 30,000 members at the Boeing Renton, Washington facility where the MAX aircraft are made.
Assistant General Chairs Mitch Buckley and Erik Stenberg represented District 141 at the events. Buckley joined representatives from 4 labor unions on the stage during the live stream where Kirby thanked them for the important role organized labor played in the airline’s quick return to profitability as the country rises from the coronavirus pandemic. After losing $7 million last year, Kirby announced separately on Monday he expects the company to show a pre-tax earnings profit in July 2021.
Kirby praised the decisions of his team, specifically that of grounding fewer aircraft than other major carriers in the Spring of 2020, which facilitated the return to flying to fit demand when markets opened and customers returned when vaccines became widely available this year. All labor unions at United lobbied Congress and got $54 billion in federal payroll support for US airlines in exchange for keeping workers employed and receiving benefits such as health insurance during the pandemic. Throughout 2020, thousands of airline workers also accepted early retirement packages or took voluntary leaves of absence, saving companies millions in payroll.
Jon Roitman, United’s Chief Operating Officer, wore a safety vest as he answered a question about the job security of employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements when the Payroll Support Program expires in September. “It remains to be seen,” said Roitman, pointing out that the airline is still “reconciling” what resources would be needed, and their timing.
District 141 stood firm and defended every clause in our contracts during the worst crisis in the history of commercial aviation, and sued United in federal court to stop the involuntary downgrade of thousands of workers to part-time status. Every IAM member at United enjoys peace of mind knowing their livelihood will be protected by a legally binding contract even after the expiration of the Payroll Support Program.
The positive news set the stage for a successful post-pandemic United, which made District 141 members and leadership look to brighter days ahead. AGC Mitch Buckley said, “This is very exciting, especially for our members at EWR,” pointing out how the “United Next” plan calls for significant growth in that hub city. For AGC and District 141 Safety Chair Erik Stenberg, the most important part of the plan is how “Our members will have great opportunities at United Airlines.”
Carmelo Benedicto, a United Lead Ramp Services Agent at EWR who is an active member and Organizer at Local 914 said, “It will be great to go into negotiations with a company that’s not broke.”
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