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MEC President's Letter - July 8, 2020

Date: July 8, 2020

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Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today United management announced their need to reduce our Flight Attendant population by 15,100 people. First and foremost, let me say that we believe the number of reductions United is seeking to be overreaching, excessive and punitive.  It is not commensurate to United’s peers in our industry or with other work groups on the property, nor realistic with the anticipated staffing we will require to adapt and grow our airline back in the months to come.

I say 15,100 people, because we are not just numbers. We are dedicated, hardworking, professionals who love our job. We are the foundation of our company’s success. While we each have individual priorities and reasons why we choose to be a part of our airline, collectively we exemplify the finest of all that United Airlines represents.

Failure to have a reasonable number of Flight Attendants available in an ever-changing environment as we move forward, harms not only our profession, but puts in jeopardy the successful return to profitability our airline will need.

The unprecedented pandemic has created a crisis for the world, our country and our industry.  We applaud the efforts senior management have made to adapt to the unfolding circumstances and reduce the airline’s cash burn, allowing us to survive. With that said, it is not labor costs that have created the situation we are facing; it is a product solely based on a lack of demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Thousands of Flight Attendants, more people than any other work group, have so far participated in voluntary time off, using short term COLAs. Collectively we have made an enormous contribution to helping preserve cash through this summer.  Together, working with management, instead of against an unrealistic number of reductions, we can continue to help United meet their needs, provide discretionary time off options through voluntary furloughs and short-term COLAs, without the unnecessary actions of an involuntary furlough.  We need to capitalize and move forward on our current collaborative success and not embark upon an adversarial path of involuntary job loss.

It is also imperative to remember that we are all in this together.  This is not a legacy carrier subsidiary issue, it’s a United issue.  It is not a domestic or international issue, because there can be no international flying without the domestic backbone of our operation to support it. It is not really even a junior or senior issue, because there is no seniority without people being junior to you as they move up in seniority over time.  We need each other.

As we move forward, things are going to be difficult, and we must remember this is an “us” issue and not a “you” problem, and keep that at the forefront of our thinking at all times over the next few months.

We also cannot allow fear to guide us.  Decisions made out of fear are not in our individual or collective best interests.  The number United has given us is staggering, but make no mistake, it is my opinion the number is so high to create panic and erode our resolve to think smart and make good decisions.  

Following this line of thinking, more than ever, we need to not be complicit in engaging in any social-media driven discussions about “solving” the issue or throwing any group of our family “under the bus.” While these discussions may seem helpful to prevent job loss, in reality it serves no purpose other than to divide us, and erode the strength of our protections.  Remember, regardless of privacy settings, management can see this strife and division and seek to exploit it.  We must be unified and resolved if we are to be successful.

Whether you like or dislike any of the various parts of our Agreement, our Contract language has a proven history time and again for how to manage an overage of Flight Attendants and protect our careers.  While our current circumstances today are different, we have been through this before and have the knowledge and wisdom to get through it again.

I want you to remember, we will uncover every stone, give every contractually compliant option, and work diligently with management to find solutions.  We will reduce this number and we will not rest until we have done every single thing in our power to avoid even one involuntary furlough.  Later this week I will be asking the United Master Executive Council to unanimously support a resolution to that effect.

We know that with a reasonable number of voluntary furloughs, in combination with Furlough Mitigation Partnerships as well as continuing short-term COLAs and other options, United can remain successful financially, and better prepared to adapt to the recovery as it progresses.

The months and possibly years ahead of us will be challenging. The flight schedules and way of life we have known, have and will continue to change; and change can be uncomfortable.  Our unwavering professionalism and the pride we take in our jobs as safety professionals, however, remains steadfast. 

You have my commitment that I will do my best to protect all of you, the important people I have the honor and privilege of representing.

In Solidarity,

Ken Diaz, President
United Master Executive Council

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