United Airlines workers to picket at DIA over proposed job cuts

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DENVER — Catering workers for United Airlines plan to picket at Denver International Airport on Wednesday over a company proposal to outsource 2,500 jobs, 500 of which are based in Denver.

The union representing those workers, Unite Here, says United has submitted Request for Proposals to solicit bids for outsourcing and won’t come to the table to negotiate a contract.

“They have received $7.7 billion in taxpayer bailout and are able to receive billions more and meanwhile disclosed $7.5 million bonuses for top executives if they stay with the company for three years or until federal restrictions expire.” said Adam Yalowitz, a deputy research director for Unite Here. “It doesn’t appear that United has disputed any of these facts.”

A representative for United Airlines provided the following statement:

“United continues to explore ways to do things differently and become more efficient wherever we can – this RFP is part of that effort. We regularly explore third-party partnerships that have the potential to make us more efficient and improve the experience for our customers.”

The same representative says the company doesn’t have a choice in the matter, but those catering workers said they’re in a similar boat.

“Saving money is difficult because… the wages are not that high,” said Rose Medina, a caterer and union leader at Unite Here. “It would take months for us to find another job. Not only that, because most people are looking for the flight benefits, I honestly think a lot them will try to find jobs with other airlines, and a lot of them are not hiring at this moment.”

Medina said many of the catering workers take the jobs for the flight benefits because they’re not from the United States, so they help them visit their families in other countries.

Additionally, English is not their native language, if they speak it at all, which makes it particularly difficult for them to find a new job.

“I don’t see me going to look for another job,” said Amelton Archelus, a United Airlines employee and refugee from Haiti who has worked for the company for 20 years. “We need the public to know what United is doing isn’t fair for us, for me and my coworkers. We need the politicians to know because… they voted for the money to go to United, so they have a right to know exactly what United is doing.”

About 400,000 airline workers were either furloughed, fired or told they may lose their jobs due to COVID-19 last year, according to Bloomberg News.

United Airlines had warned 14,000 employees their jobs were at risk in February. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, those layoffs were canceled, according to the Washington Post

But as the airline industry continues to rebound, union leaders point to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing showing the company has allotted $7.5 million in bonuses for its CEO, CFO and president. Those bonuses would be paid through long-term contingent cash awards.

Basically, those executives will be paid millions in bonuses if they stay with United Airlines for an additional three years or until federal restrictions listed in the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan expire. Each bonus would be worth three times the annual salary for each of them.

United Airlines’ share value has increased by 35% since the beginning of 2021. The company also expects its profit margin to exceed 2019 levels by 2023.

The proposal would also affect workers in Houston, Newark, Honolulu and Cleveland.

Denver7 reached out to United Airlines regarding the executive’s planned bonuses, but have not heard back.

The protest is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.