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2009 UAL Shareholder Meeting Recap

Date: June 12, 2009
Type: AFA Article

Photos of Event

For a third consecutive year, United Flight Attendants, pilots and other employees joined in protest on a picket line chastising the UAL Board of Directors for failing to take action against executive greed and the poor decisions of CEO Glenn Tilton and airline senior management.  We carried picket signs and pointed out the hypocrisy of management bonuses while workers are still being forced to endure concessions.  We also pointed out that under this UAL Board of Directors tenure more than 50,000 UAL workers have lost their jobs, in part through code sharing and antitrust immunized alliances.   Another series of protesters carried picket signs pointing out that even though the price of UAL's stock took a nose dive, payouts were still made to shareholders and the upper echelon of UAL lines its pockets with bonus money.

As you recall the UAL Board sat quietly during last year's annual shareholder meeting as Glenn Tilton told one of our best customers to take his business elsewhere if he didn't like what was happening at United.  This year we cheered as Mr. Anderson stood up at the microphone. Tilton then implied he may be a Union plant. Mr. Anderson expressed concern for the state of the company as witnessed by the picket signs outside the meeting.  He said that as long as employees feel the need to protest in such a manner United Airlines will never reach its potential as one of the world’s great airlines.  He challenged Tilton and others on their substandard product offering as well as the impact on passengers as a result of staffing cuts onboard United aircraft.  Earlier in the meeting another shareholder and 100K flyer made similar comments relative to flying in business class with only two Flight Attendants.  He said this was unacceptable from a passenger’s perspective and challenged management’s decision to stand “competitive” among the worst with staffing cuts.

Perhaps the crowning moment in the meeting came when another activist shareholder Matalynne Wandell took to the microphone to challenge the UAL Board of Directors for not holding Tilton and other executives accountable for their failures related to fuel hedging and the treatment of United workers.  Soon after, Tilton moved to conclude the meeting.

Some pilots expressed concern about being scrutinized and intimidated after making decisions to refuse aircraft for safety concerns.  The response from Kolchak, the Senior Vice President in charge of maintenance, was that United would change its training so that every pilot accepts an aircraft when the minimum equipment list standards are met instead of allowing Captains to use their discretion as empowered by the FAA.  Kolchak said United would never put a plane on the line that wasn’t fit to fly and acknowledged the Captain’s discretion was being questioned.

This year the UAL BOD may have finally been sent a message they can understand through a show of disapproval by shareholders.  Last year they were re-elected by well over 90% of the vote and this year they only received a favorable vote of 64%.  Paul Lovejoy read the percentage very quickly when reporting the results. Typically the vote to reelect Board of Director Members at any company is in the 90% range.  So while there were a number of questions and challenges to Tilton and the UAL Board of Directors by Flight Attendants, pilots and shareholders, all of which were ignored, dismissed, or provided an answer not relevant to the question or concern, we are still left to wonder what it is that the UAL Board of Directors will have to say following this meeting.

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