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UniTED Airlines CheaTED its Retirees

Date: February 2, 2004

Flight Attendants File Motion Asking Bankruptcy Court to Investigate Airline’s Scheme to Defraud Thousands of Retirees

Kick-off Major Advertising, Lobbying and Passenger Outreach Campaign in Cities around the World

Press Conference

CHICAGO —At a press conference at Chicago’s O’Hare airport today, United Airlines flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, announced they are undertaking a major legal, lobbying, advertising, passenger outreach and media campaign to stop United Airlines from cheating its retirees out of promised health insurance benefits.

“We intend to make sure that everyone knows that UniTED has cheaTED thousands of workers out of retirement benefits earned after decades of dedicated service to our airline,” United AFA Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch said. “We will be lobbying on Capitol Hill, we’ll be talking to passengers, advertising in newspapers, on billboards and buses, flight attendants will be hounding United management at their public events and leafleting and picketing at airports in cities around the world.”

The flight attendants are also filing a motion requesting that the bankruptcy court 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 advertising and passenger outreach campaign’s concept “cheaTED” was revealed at today’s press conference at O’Hare Airport in Chicago followed by passenger leafleting, picketing and media events at nine of United’s hub cities across the country, including: Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.

“United has spent millions marketing Ted as a new, innovative, happy airline—but it’s not,” Davidowitch said. “These contract violations and double-cross tactics show that there is nothing new at United. Labor management relations are back to historical lows and the promise of a new United is gone. Through this attack on retirees, management has proven that what Ted really stands for is cheated.”

Retired and active flight attendants are taking their fight to Capitol Hill on Feb. 4 and 5 to inform legislators about United management’s duplicitous attempt to hide behind the bankruptcy court to renege on their promise to retirees. The proposed changes were not a part of United’s restructuring agreement and are not necessary for the airline’s successful reorganization, but they will devastate thousands of retirees.

United management signed a letter of agreement in May 2003 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 those that would be in place for workers 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 double-cross them by cutting their benefits and raising their costs.

Under United’s plan, retirees will have to pay up to $650 per month for less health care -- more than 10 times more than they pay now for better health benefits – and there is no cap on contributions as health care costs climb each year. For retirees on incomes that average about $1,200 a month, these cuts will be devastating.

“Although not prepared emotionally or financially to retire, the risks of my critical illness and not being able to afford my healthcare weighed heavily on me and was ultimately THE deciding factor to take early retirement,” said Eileen Bugbee, a recently retired flight attendant who is battling colon cancer. “I am facing additional surgery and if United Airlines is legally successful in reneging on its word and forcing flight attendants who retired prior to July 1, 2003, to suffer additional insurance costs, I cannot continue to live on my limited fixed income.”

Eileen’s story will be featured in an advertisement in the Washington, DC newspaper Roll Call on Wednesday, Feb. 4, as United retirees and active employees make visits to lawmakers. It will be the first in a series of ads around the country that dramatically tell the personal stories of United retirees who will suffer at the hands of United’s callousness.

Log on to http://www.unitedafa.org/ to read the hundreds of personal stories retirees have submitted to the union’s website about the effects the benefit changes will have on their lives.

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 http://www.unitedafa.org/.

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