United Airlines workers urge Houston officials to help save hundreds of jobs – Houston Public Media
United Airline workers on Tuesday urged Houston city council to pass an ordinance they said would help hundreds of employees keep their jobs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
During Tuesday’s town hall, two workers from Local 23 of UNITE HERE, the union representing United workers, told council members they were concerned about the contracting out of services through of a request for proposal, first drawn up by United as part of their efforts to become more pandemic.
Today, 800 workers are at risk of losing their jobs, union member Houston Daniels said.
“United Airlines made no promise or guarantee that we will keep our jobs or our benefits during this transaction,” Daniels said. “We have worked hard, and many of us, including myself, have been through the pandemic. At the moment we are not sure of our future with the company and we are wondering how we can provide for it. to the needs of our families if we lose our jobs. “
Mayor Sylvester Turner said he had been made aware of the issue and was doing everything possible to ensure that employees kept their jobs.
But when asked directly about any proposed worker retention policy, which the union advocates, Turner refused to commit.
“We are working to ensure that current employees will not be displaced by the incoming supplier or anyone,” Turner said. “I am very sensitive to this and we are speaking at United as we speak.”
Between federal funding rounds, the airline industry has raked in $ 96 billion, including $ 18.9 billion for United Airlines alone, according to a union report. Of that money, $ 7.7 billion was earmarked for payroll protection in light of the pandemic – with an additional $ 15 billion from the American rescue plan.
In a statement, United Airlines said it was exploring ways to be more efficient in offsetting the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it was in talks with the union.
The union’s fight is not new. United catering employees have been without a contract since 2018, when they first voted to unionize.
Based on data collected by UNITE HERE, 95% of United workers at IAH are people of color and immigrants, with 85% of restaurant workers living in census tracts predominantly of people of color, and 70% of those workers living in areas that had a median household income lower than the overall median in Houston between 2015 and 2019.
According to the report, a massive layoff of workers could potentially worsen economic disparities in non-white neighborhoods, causing devastating financial impacts.
The report includes Valerie Thomas, head of transportation for 15 years at United Airlines, who said losing her job meant life or death.
“I’m afraid of losing my health insurance if I lose my job in the fall,” Thomas said in the report. “Without my health insurance, I would not be able to go to the doctor for treatment or to pay for my medication. If I can’t take my meds every morning, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s life or death. for me.”
Another worker included in the report, Fernando Herrera, has worked for United Airlines catering for 20 years. He called the decision unfair outsourcing.
“It is an injustice,” Herrera said. “It’s not fair that United, even after getting the government money, is considering laying people off. That’s all my colleagues and I think about.”
Others said they had no choice but to overcome the pandemic. Heidy Rodriguez, a 13-year-old Sky Chefs employee at IAH, who is also included in the report, said she just wanted the job security she thinks she deserves.
“My colleagues and I have risked our lives every day coming to the airport throughout the pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “I sacrificed a lot for my job. We spent a lot of time working at IAH, and we really would like to have the security of knowing that we could stay, even if another company took over the kitchen.”
The report concludes that if United and the city don’t work together to keep current employees at IAH, they risk serious economic uncertainty.
“Airport workers have become ambassadors for our city and have worked hard for the success of our economy,” the report said. “This (ordinance) will end employee job losses simply because there is a change of contractors where they work.”
Florian Martin contributed to this report.
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