United Airlines catering workers protest plans to outsource 2,500 jobs despite $7.7 billion taxpayer bailout

Airline workers' protest.

United Airlines catering workers protest plans to outsource 2,500 jobs despite $7.7 billion taxpayer bailout

Workers demand United stop millions in bonuses to top executives

NEWARK – One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, United Airlines has already received $7.7 billion from the U.S. government in order to keep workers employed, and is able to receive billions more. But at a time when airline workers need job security, United has announced plans to contract out inflight catering work, without giving workers any assurances that their jobs, pay and benefits will be protected. Meanwhile, United has disclosed millions in bonuses for top executives if they stay with the company for three years or until federal restrictions expire.

United Airlines catering workers picketed today at Newark, Denver, Houston and Honolulu airports with signs reading: “UNITED: Taxpayer Bailout” and “UNITED: Am I getting fired?” United Airlines directly employs approximately 2,500 airline catering workers, who are currently covered by the Payroll Support Program. However, the airline is putting all 2,500 of those jobs in jeopardy with a request for proposal out now soliciting bids to outsource the catering functions that have been done in-house for decades as soon as this fall. United catering workers are overwhelmingly people of color and immigrants.

“United should not subcontract these jobs. Many of the United Airlines catering workers have served the airline for decades,” said D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE International Union. “This is not what Congress intended when it approved unprecedented support for the airline industry. United Airlines catering workers will continue to fight for their jobs and fight to prevent United from busting the workers’ union and putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.”

United’s stock price has increased 40 percent year-to-date and reached levels this March triple its pandemic low. United expects its profit margin to exceed 2019 levels by 2023.

“Taxpayers, including us, bailed out United. Now, after we risked our health to prepare its in-flight food and beverage in big industrial kitchens during COVID-19, thousands of us may be laid off this fall,” said Fernando Herrera, who has worked at United Airlines’ catering kitchen at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport for over 18 years. “We fought to win the security of union jobs with living wages and benefits at United. Now United wants to take that away.”

United’s plans will jeopardize workers’ continued union representation. United Airlines opposed workers’ effort to join UNITE HERE in 2018, but the workers nonetheless prevailed in their union election resoundingly.

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