WASHINGTON -- United Airline mechanics and supporters leafleted airports nationwide today, asking passengers to sign a petition urging United Airlines to pull back from its plans to sell off its Mileage Plus program and its San Francisco aircraft maintenance operation.
The protesters stood outside United terminal arrival and departure doors at Chicago O'Hare, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles International, San Francisco International, and Denver International on the busiest travel day of the year to alert passengers to the potential safety risks that United's outsourcing of crucial heavy maintenance could pose to the flying public. They were accompanied by turkey-suited mascots wearing signs reading, "Outsourcing Airplane Maintenance Is a Turkey."
"Every time passengers fly with United, they place their trust in this airline to fly them to their destinations using the safest equipment, checked by the most qualified mechanics. Outsourcing the heavy maintenance on United's fleet to foreign countries, with all the safety and security risks that go along with that, is a betrayal of passengers' trust," says Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa.
Currently, United is outsourcing heavy maintenance of its 747s and 777s to China and South Korea, and is exploring selling off its key San Francisco maintenance facility. The FAA does not require foreign companies to perform drug or criminal background checks on their employees. Foreign companies are also not required to employ FAA-certified mechanics.
The leafleters also spoke to holiday travelers about potential Mileage Plus benefits cuts frequent flyers could see if that program is sold off by United. They cited the dramatic program cuts suffered by frequent flyers at United partner Air Canada, after Air Canada sold off its frequent flyer program in 2005.
A substantial majority of United mechanics have submitted cards requesting Teamster representation.
"Many of us have seen firsthand the kind of shoddy airplane repairs that come with outsourcing," says Rich Petrofsky, a United mechanic for 38 years. "We wouldn't want our own families flying in unsafe planes, and we don't want our customers exposed to that risk either. Foreign mechanics with too little oversight should not wind up in charge of United's fleet."
"The Teamsters plan to enforce language in the existing mechanics' contract that will make it harder for United to go forward with even more outsourcing," Hoffa says. "In addition, once certified, we plan on negotiating strong Teamster contract language that, like our other Teamster aviation contracts, will prevent outsourcing. We will do everything in our power to prevent United from potentially endangering the flying public by sending these mechanics' jobs oversea."
The Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition represents 20,000 highly trained mechanics at 14 airlines.