(NEW YORK) – Hundreds of aircraft mechanics who traveled from 10 airports across the U.S. protested their employer, United Airlines [NYSE: UAL], at JP Morgan’s annual Aviation, Transportation & Industrials investor conference today.
The protest follows 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.
Last month, the mechanics voted down United’s contract proposal by 93 percent, and 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, “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’s mechanics overwhelmingly authorized a strike because the company’s executives are lining their own pockets, while failing to keep the promises they made to employees who took major concessions during United’s bankruptcy,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division.
“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 promised employees that it would make it up to them when good times returned. Now United is earning record profits and spending billions to buy back stock, yet it wants to slash mechanics’ profit sharing by two-thirds and is offering mechanics only, on average, a 73-cent-per-hour net wage increase annually,” Bourne said.
“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.
“Why is United in a rush to buy back stock? Investors should be wary, especially since United has announced plans to spend as much as $2.9 billion on new aircraft and other capital expenditures in 2016— and it also needs to invest in its workforce,” Bourne said.
“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.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.