United Flight Attendants and Retirees Deliver Thousands of Letters of Protest to United
February 18, 2004
CHICAGO -- United Airlines flight attendants and retirees, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, personally delivered thousands of letters from retirees to United CEO Glenn Tilton on Tuesday demanding that the airline stop its plan to change retiree health benefits.
AFA has been inundated with letters from retirees stating that they never would have considered early retirement without United’s promise to ensure that flight attendants retiring before July 1, 2003 would have access to health care benefits that were less costly and more comprehensive than what would be in place for those who retire after that date.
Based on that agreement, almost 2,500 flight attendants retired before the July 1 deadline, only to find out just six months later that United intends to implement changes that will force retirees to pay hundreds of dollars more per month of their fixed, modest pensions just to continue health insurance. Additionally, many workers took an early retirement penalty on their pensions in order to retire before the deadline and ensure their medical benefits.
Flight attendants and retirees were also on Capitol Hill earlier this month informing legislators about United’s bait and switch tactics. In less than a week, over 100 members of the House of Representatives signed on to a letter admonishing United for their ill-conceived plan to double-cross retirees and cut their benefits.
A portion of the letter from Congress read:
"Frankly, we are surprised that United Airlines, so close to successfully emerging from bankruptcy, would risk the lowering of employee morale and reduction of workers' confidence in the company. Your decision to seek to take advantage of bankruptcy law in order to breach your own contractual agreements and cut these dedicated former employees' health benefits is extremely troubling.
"It is our sincere hope that United Airlines will not jeopardize the commitment the flight attendants have made to help United successfully reorganize. We urge you to immediately abandon your efforts to reduce the retiree benefits you agreed to provide to flight attendants who retired by the July 1, 2003 deadline. It is the right thing to do for the loyal retirees at United and the common hope we all share for a successful emergence from bankruptcy by United Airlines."
A copy of the letter from Congress and a selection of retiree letters may be viewed at http://www.unitedafa.org/.
Flight attendants have asked the bankruptcy court to appoint an examiner to investigate United Airlines’ scheme to intentionally mislead thousands of flight attendants into ending their careers and retiring early, defrauding them out of their retirement benefits. The court will hear the motion on Feb. 20.
More than 46,000 flight attendants, including the 21,000 flight attendants at United, join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.unitedafa.org.