Machinists Union Seeks Injunction Against United Airlines

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2020 — Today the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (“IAM”) filed a lawsuit against United Airlines in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Mike Klemm, President and Directing General Chair of IAM District Lodge 141 said, “The lawsuit we filed today in Federal court seeks an injunction against United Airlines on behalf of the 27,000 IAM represented Fleet Service and Passenger Service workers to halt United’s illegal implementation of drastic pay and benefit cuts in violation of the Railway Labor Act and their agreement under the Coronavirus Aid and Relief and Economic Security Act  (“CARES Act”) to maintain the wages and working conditions of its employees through September 30, 2020, as a condition to obtaining $5 Billion in taxpayer dollars. 

On May 1, 2020, United advised the IAM that “effective May 24, 2020 … all full-time employees covered by the Passenger Service Employees Agreement and the Fleet Service Employees Agreement will be reduced to part-time status.”  While the effective date of this mass reduction is May 24, 2020, United has given affected employees only until May 13, 2020, to make an “irrevocable decision” whether to accept a reduction to part-time status; retire with no recall rights; separate from employment with no recall rights, or elect furlough with furlough pay and a right of recall. United has directed that “Once you make your election … it is irrevocable, and you cannot change it.” We are seeking to invalidate United’s unilateral demand that our members either agree to become Part-Time employees or hit the street.

United’s scheme to unilaterally “reduce” all employees to part-time status will substantially reduce their pay rates and benefits. Pay rates will be reduced because employees who had been paid for a 40-hour week would now be paid at most for a 30-hour week which will reduce their benefits as well.

United’s decision to reduce every full-time IAM member to part-time is also a flagrant violation of the Railway Labor Act because it is being done without the agreement of the IAM.  United recognized it needed the IAM”s consent for this change. While the IAM has been willing to work with the Company through this difficult time, it refused this request which damages IAM members disproportionately compared to every other employee group at United.  In addition, United asked for and received billions of dollars in public funds based on its promise not to furlough employees or reduce wages and benefits. “For United to obtain federal funds under the false pretense that it would protect its workers through September and then turn around and do this to their most loyal workforce struggling to survive during this pandemic is unconscionable, “said Mike Klemm, President of IAM District Lodge 141. 

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