Machinists picket United Airlines for outsourcing middle class jobs

Machinists Local 1833 members picketing outside Terminal 1 today include (L to R) Derrick Bollea, A.J. Lindell and Greg Durand.

Machinists Local 1833 members picketing outside Terminal 1 today include (L to R) Derrick Bollea, A.J. Lindell and Greg Durand.

United Airlines’ union employees greeted travelers approaching Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport today, raising public awareness of the airline’s plan to outsource more customer-service jobs to non-union, low-wage contractors – a plan that could impact jobs based in the Twin Cities.

At its peak, the daylong informational picket line outside Terminal 1 drew 25 members of International Association of Machinists Local 1833. Holding “Outsourcing Is Wrong” signs, they attracted horn honks and waves of support from passing drivers.

United laid off about 240 Machinists union members earlier this year, shifting their work to low-cost vendors – like subcontractors – at six U.S. airports where the airline has a minimal presence.

Another round of outsourcing is in the works, union members say, and it is likely to hit airports where United employs between 50 and 150 workers. The Machinists represent about 200 MSP-based United workers.

“We’re within that realm,” Local 1833 President A.J. Lindell said of the next round of layoffs. “If it happens, all these good-paying, middle-class jobs are gone. United replaces them with minimum-wage work and minimal customer service.”

Similar actions have taken place at airports across the country this summer – including one today at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, a hub of operations for United.

The MSP action, Lindell said, was the first staged at one of United’s “line stations,” or non-hub operations.

“We think good corporate profits come from good middle-class jobs,” Lindell said. “United made $469 million in the second quarter alone last year. “Their financial justification for outsourcing 200 jobs is that it will save them $1 million annually. It seems a bit unnecessary, to say the least.”

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