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Lawmakers Outraged by United Airlines’ Attack on Retirees

Date: February 5, 2004

Dozens Promise Action to Help Protect Affordable Medical Benefits

Sara Nelson Dela Cruz (AFA) 847-292-7170 ext. 524
Nadeam Elshami (Schakowsky’s Office) 202-225-2111
Tom Hickey (Hoeffel’s Office) 215-789-3700

WASHINGTON, DC —United flight attendants and retirees, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday to inform lawmakers about United Airlines’ plan to renege on its agreement to provide affordable healthcare for retirees who left the company prior to July 1, 2003.

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, "United flight attendants, who've sacrificed to keep the airline flying, can rest assured that many of us in Congress will not stand idly by while United reneges on its agreement. This is no way for an airline that has received billions of taxpayer dollars from Congress to treat some of its most dedicated and loyal employees who supported the airline during difficult financial times."

“This country must start honoring our retirees, and United's attempt to double-cross American workers is wrong and cannot be allowed," Congressman Joe Hoeffel (D-PA) said. "Allowing a big corporation like United to hurt more retirees could spark an unjust and wrongheaded domino effect that could impact retirees and workers across the entire airline industry."

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 of what 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.

Over the past two days, flight attendants have gotten commitments from several legislators to call or write letters to United CEO Glenn Tilton and tell him to stop the company’s plan to violate the company’s agreement with retirees.

“The positive response from legislators has been overwhelming,” United AFA Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch said. “House leaders have recognized that United has targeted their recent retirees in a scheme to dupe thousands of workers into early retirement.”

Meetings with Senators will be rescheduled once the Senate office buildings reopen.

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.

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