WWW Center Hosts Historic Merger Summit

United Airlines Senior VP of Labor Relations Doug McKeen (left) and Continental Airlines Human Relations & Labor Relations Senior VP Mike Bonds (right) visited the Winpisinger Center and answered questions from IAM representatives and members regarding the proposed United-Continental merger.

The prospect of a greatly consolidated airline industry is responsible for an unprecedented conference taking place at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Southern Maryland.

More than 100 IAM representatives and members from Districts 141, 142 and 143 are taking part in the first-ever Transportation Merger Summit, designed to coordinate resources for upcoming representation elections at Delta Air Lines and to consider implications of the pending United-Continental merger.

As the largest union in the airline industry, the IAM represents employees at each of the carriers involved in this latest round of consolidation. District 141 represents more than 16,000 employees at United Airlines; District 142 represents about 11,000 Flight Attendants at Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia and Express Jet; and District 143 represents 12,500 employees at the former Northwest Airlines.

Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. described the elections at Delta as having the potential to define working conditions in the airline industry for decades to come.

“We cannot and we will not allow a non-union Delta to set new low standards in benefits and compensation for the rest of the industry,” declared Roach. “The eyes of this industry and the world are upon us in this fight and we will rise to the occasion.”

In contrast to the fight taking shape at Delta Air Lines, the IAM is carefully weighing the potential benefits of a merger between United and Continental Airlines.

With a long history of representation rights at both United and Continental, the IAM invited senior management representatives from each carrier to address the conference.

United Airlines Senior VP of Labor Relations Doug McKeen and Continental Human Resources & Labor Relations Senior VP Mike Bonds each gave presentations and submitted to freewheeling question-and-answer sessions with members that touched on the most sensitive of merger-related subjects, including seniority integration, station closings, pass travel, retirement benefits and of course, representation rights.

“One of the first things we established following the announcement of the United-Continental merger was that our members would be provided with as much information as possible,” said Roach. “While we have not taken a formal position for or against the United-Continental merger, we are encouraged by their willingness to meet with our representatives and respond to our members’ concerns.”