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UAL Mechanic Strike

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Dec 2, 2001

Say it is not so!!!

United Airlines Mechanics Authorize Strike
December 14, 2001 5:11 pm EST

By David Bailey
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Mechanics at United Airlines have voted to authorize a strike in the first major labor relations test for the struggling airline industry since the Sept. 11 attacks, though White House intervention could delay a walkout for two months.

Mechanics represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 141M, who say they have worked without a pay raise since 1994, could strike as early as next Friday, when a 30-day cooling-off period ends.

However, the White House reiterated on Friday that it might intervene to delay a strike by the mechanics for 60 days on grounds that a walkout would damage the economy, meaning any action would not take place before mid-February.

"The president has made it clear that given the fragility of the airline industry and the importance of the American people's right to travel, he would look very unkindly on any action that would interfere with those rights," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.

The chief negotiator for the mechanics, Scotty Ford, said the authorization to strike sends a clear message.

"Your vote has sent a very loud and important message, all the way to the White House," Ford said in a statement on a union Web site. "You have just given us a very powerful tool that we intend to use."

United spokesman Joe Hopkins said the air carrier does not expect any disruption to customers as a result of the vote.


The 15,000 United mechanics voted 99 percent in favor of striking the nation's second-largest airline, a unit of UAL Corp. Balloting was Thursday, and the results were released on Friday.

Shares of UAL Corp. fell 49 cents, or 3.2 percent, to close at $14.72 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. Analysts said some airline stocks were down on Friday due to rising oil prices.

United and other air carriers continue to lose millions of dollars a day following the September attacks that killed nearly 3,300 people. Air traffic has not recovered fully since four hijacked airliners, including two from United, were crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

"United is uniquely vulnerable in that as an industry leader it should not be having the problems it is having," said Richard Aboulafia, analyst at Virginia-based consultancy Teal Group. "It just goes to show that even in the worst of times, the industry's adversarial problems remain very difficult to get past, almost insurmountable."

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst at ABN Amro, said that a mechanics' strike would likely shut down United, hurt ticket sales and be generally devastating for the airline. But he added that a strike is not necessarily imminent.

The machinists and United have negotiated for two years to no avail, and there are no talks scheduled at present. The sides were thought to be near agreement before the Sept. 11 attacks, but progress has stalled as United vies to survive after losing a record $1.16 billion in the third quarter.

After mechanics rejected an arbitration offer in November, the National Mediation Board recommended that President Bush create a special Presidential Emergency Board to address the dispute. Bush indicated through his spokesman that he will create a board to make recommendations.

"Based on a recommendation from the National Mediation Board and comments from the White House, we expect there will be a Presidential Emergency Board," Hopkins said.

United gave pilots a huge pay raise last year and now wants to avoid another costly contract, analysts have said.

John Creighton, UAL's new chief executive, has opened financial books to the unions and told employees repeatedly that everything is on the table as the airline tries to restore profitability, including concessions from the unions.

Former CEO James Goodwin was ousted in late October, after unions complained bitterly about a letter he sent to employees warning the airline could perish next year.
This should be in the YGBSM section of the board. 99% of the UAL mechanics want to strike? What part of the picture do I not get here? I've heard of sticking it to the company, but guys c'mon. The poor gal is in the ICU on life support and you're still trying to plug her! Where do these guys think they're going to work and for what type of wage if they force the company into Ch. 11? Will the pilots honor their picket lines? What about FA's? I keep thinking of the Melissa Etheridge look-alike mechanic on the commercial saying "We are United". The whole thing really makes organized labor look like sh*t, IMHO.
XNav said:
This should be in the YGBSM section of the board. 99% of the UAL mechanics want to strike? What part of the picture do I not get here. ... The whole thing really makes organized labor look like sh*t, IMHO.

XNav, you seem to be missing the point. No one at the unions are silly or stupid enough to put themselves out of a job. It's never happened. Some might bring up Eastern's demise although it was Lorenzo's will that killed Eastern. The IAM strike there just fell into his nefarious plans.

The point of a union is collective bargaining. UA isn't bargaining in good faith. The IAM is putting on the pressure. It's a game, really, that management plays out until that last possible minute because it SAVES THEM MONEY. Bush in the White House has said that he won't allow any strikes to shut down major airlines. He has that right, however, the idea of the PEB (Presidential Emergency Board) was that the President would prevent a strike that would harm the economy and/or national infrastucture. But instead of preventing a strike at the last minute Bush has changed the whole Railway Labor Act by usurping the only leverage a union has! What incentive does management have to bargain when they know Mr. Bush is gonna save them? None!

Look, I'm what you may call an anti-union union member. In many cases unions are wasteful and self-propagating through featherbedding. But I can tell you that pilot's unions have done more for the safety of the flying public than the FAA/NTSB and management combined. If you don't know already you'll soon see what I mean. Plus unions are granted access to confidential financial information that gives an idea as to how far to push it. To be sure, unions do a lousy P.R. job, but in the end most people empathize with the workers over management.

Just a word to the wise on the mechanics strike vote and the negiotations with management. In the past year it was not only managements fault for not operating in good faith, but it was also the IAM fault. When the company started talking to them in 2000, the IAM delayed as long as they could to see what NWA received in their contract. The IAM did not want AFMA to get something better for their guys NWA. Then, my understanding is that, IAM delayed a little longer on talks, while the vote to bring AFMA on property and get rid of IAM went through.

On 9/10 our CSR and other non mechanics under IAM had come close to a settlement. But after 9/11, well for a few weeks the company has distracted. Then off course we get a new CEO and that did delay talks till he could get up to speed.

As far as the mechanics, I feel sorry for them. They have been at the mercy of the IAM and the IAM is more worried about being throwen off the property, than in negotations. The new CEO is in a tight spot. Can't give lots money right now, and he was not here in the last two years. (Believe me I don't support our management whole heartedly, but I am willing to give the new CEO a chance.)

I only hope that the two can come to an agreement and not a strike.

:( :confused:
Unions Ya gotta love 'em..

For those of you who don't know my opinion on unions yet, you soon will. Herein is the one example I've been hoping would never happen in order to make my point. Now, before you all start to get upset, this is merely my opinion and take it as such. I know that unionization does a lot of good for most everyone however, not in this case. I warned people about being "unionized" out of a job and this only strengthens my argument. Why would anyone even think that a company that has lost over a BILLION dollars, would be able to negotiate raises and other concessions??? Especially when there is no latitude to produce more income to cover those costs??? For those folks with United, I am deeply troubled and worried for you and the future of the airline. I hope most of those mechanics are able to fix business jets because the will be working for Avolar pretty soon (If they're lucky..)

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