Flight Attendants and Teamster Mechanics Picket United Airlines at SFO
Unions Say Sustained Actions, Solidarity is Getting Attention
Members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) and Teamster mechanics rallied at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) March 17 to demand fair contracts at United Airlines (UAL). The action was the fifth in a series of rallies held since last December to call attention to the failure of UAL management to reach an agreement with the unions in contract negotiations. Hundreds of Teamsters rallied at the United Airlines Maintenance Base February 19 and again on February 28 at the UAL terminal. AFA members rallied in December and January to demand an industry-leading contract.
The mechanics rejected United’s last and final offer February 16, with 93 percent of those voting rejecting the concessionary contract, and 87 percent of those who voted “no” on the contract voting to strike. The airline and the Teamsters are in mediation through the National Mediation Board (NMB); the union has petitioned the NMB for a release to begin a strike. The Teamsters represent over 9,000 mechanics at United, with 3,000 employed at the SFO base.
Teamsters 856 Secretary-Treasurer Peter Finn said the threat of a strike and sustained actions at SFO and other airports served by United, “has gotten management’s attention.” Finn said there has been some progress in negotiations, with new CEO Oscar Munoz saying he would attend the negotiations. Munoz has said completing the contracts is a priority.
The Chicago Business Journal reported Mar 15 that, “On his first day back [March 14], Munoz made a major statement about what his priorities are. The United CEO convened what was dubbed a ‘Labor Summit’ by the four key United labor unions that participated, including the Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers and the Professional Airline Flight Control Association.” The participating unions said in a statement that the meeting with Munoz signaled “a long-overdue fresh approach to labor/management relations at United Airlines,” and that they appreciated “Mr. Munoz’s outreach to us—especially on his first day back after a medical leave—and welcome his initiative to build an airline of inclusion and collaboration,” the Chicago Business Journal reported.
Teamsters Local 856/986 SFO Coordinator Fred Wood and AFA United Council 11 President Chris Black.
AFA United Council 11 President Chris Black said, “United continues to make record-breaking profits, yet we are still here.” She said the solidarity between the UAL unions helped boost the morale of the flight attendants—who have been picketing at SFO and other United Airlines airports on a regular basis since the 2011 merger. Black said she hopes that Munoz follows through and does what he says. Black said there also may be good news regarding more jobs for United flight attendants on the fleet of Boeing 787s that United and Continental share. More than five years after the merger of United/Continental/Continental Micronesia, flight attendants do not have a joint contract that addresses work rules, scheduling, benefits and good wages. AFA represents 24,000 flight attendants at United Airlines.
At the SFO rally, Teamsters Local 856/986 SFO Coordinator Fred Wood thanked the flight attendants “for bringing us all together.” Other unions represented at the SFO rally March 17 included Machinists 1781, UNITE-HERE Local 2, SEIU 1021, SEIU-USWW and SEIU 87, California School Employees Association, American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, as well as the San Mateo County Central Labor Council.
Hundreds of United Airlines aircraft mechanics also protested UAL at JP Morgan’s annual Aviation, Transportation & Industrials investor conference March 8. The mechanics held picket signs that read, “United Airlines Execs: Don't Loot Mechanics’ Healthcare & Profit-Sharing” and “United Airlines Mechanics STRIKE – Not Yet.” Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division, said, “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.”
“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.
- Paul Burton