WASHINGTON, DC – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union representing more than 9,000 United Airlines aircraft mechanics, is weighing in on the battle for control of the airline’s parent company – United Continental Holdings, Inc.
News of the impending proxy contest came as United Airlines Teamster mechanics protested outside the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation & Industrials Conference in New York City. The protest comes on the heels of an over 93 percent vote to turn down an unfair contract offer, as well as an overwhelming vote to authorize the union to call a strike.
“Before the Teamsters Union supports either slate, we demand they make transparent their plans for the future of United Airlines,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division. “We want to know the Board’s approach to realign executive pay, improve passenger service and reach a fair contract for their mechanics.”
On March 8, 2016, two large UAL investors, Altimeter Capital and PAR Capital, announced that they would be running a slate of six nominees for the company’s Board of Directors, including the former Chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, Gordon Bethune, who is credited with turning Continental’s performance around.
The dissidents cited long-standing poor governance by the Board and five years of underperformance relative to their peers in the passenger aviation industry as their motivation for running this slate. UAL reacted by adding three directors to their board with another director forthcoming.
“The Teamsters are staying neutral while we investigate which direction will result in the best contract for our members and strengthen the airline’s long-term prospects,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Workers made great sacrifices while the airline struggled in bankruptcy, losing large sums of stock. Many saw wage cuts and furloughs while thousands lost their jobs to outsourcing. Now, management wants to cut mechanics’ profit sharing by two-thirds and raise their healthcare costs.”
“The Teamsters have respect for how Gordon Bethune addressed labor and operational concerns when he was at Continental. However, we need to look at both slates and make a decision based on whose approach will best address passenger and employee confidence in the company. United leadership, whoever shareholders choose, needs to understand that the mechanics are ready to strike,” Bourne said. “The Board needs a strategy that respects the work of employees, improves service to passengers and rewards investors with long-term growth.”