May 19, 2020
This communication will discuss continuing developments at United Airlines, however, I urge all District Lodge 141 members to read this update.
Regrettably, United Airlines and District 141 have disagreed vehemently on how to handle the steep decline in demand for air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 1, 2020, United Airlines announced an involuntary furlough of approximately 14,000 full-time fleet service and customer service employees, which would have caused a pay and benefits cut, and also multiple violations of our contracts.
As you know, United management reversed course after DL 141 filed a lawsuit in federal court affirming that the forced reductions were both a violation of the CARES Act and our collective bargaining agreements. I want to be crystal clear: The May 1st Greg Hart and Kate Gebo plan to involuntarily furlough every full-time employee to part-time WAS NOT allowable under our collective bargaining agreements. And, it WILL NOT be allowable at any future date. If Mr. Hart and Ms. Gebo attempt this ill-advised action again, you can count on IAMAW District 141 to fight it with every available resource our union possesses.
Over the past couple of weeks, United has resorted to coordinated scare tactics and misinformation to get as many IAM-represented workers as possible to take a voluntary COLA. I informed United management numerous times to stop threatening IAM members with illegal and non-contractual involuntary furloughs. Finally, last week at a virtual town hall, SVP of Airport Operations, Jon Roitman, stated there will be no involuntary furloughs through September 30, 2020. We’ve said all along that this is something United management could not do.
We fully understand that we need our carriers to be successful for everyone to maintain their ability to put a roof over their head and food on their families’ table. District 141 stands ready to engage with United to develop voluntary programs to achieve cost savings and to put together a long-term plan that benefits employees and our airline. Since our lawsuit was withdrawn, United management has not engaged with District 141. United management should understand that by working with us, we can devise creative ways to help the carrier and, at the same time, care for United employees who have turned this airline around and who are bravely serving our country every single day by providing essential services.
To be perfectly clear, if demand for air travel does not rebound before September 30, 2020, there likely will be furloughs at every single US-based airline.
The number of laid-off employees will be determined by the demand for air travel, and also by the level of participation in voluntary COLA and other separation programs. I sincerely ask that you prepare for a potential furlough in October. Please hold off on buying any new big-ticket items, such as a car or house. I hope you will take every step you can to help save money for yourself and your family. It is very rare to have five to six months to prepare for a furlough, so I hope everyone will use this time to take the necessary precautionary steps.
Please know that the IAM is fully behind you and we will do everything possible to defend ALL IAM members and our families at our airlines during this time.
God bless and stay safe,
President and Directing General Chair,
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers