PIT Post-Gazette: US Airways' mechanics vote today



US Airways'' mechanics vote today
PITTSBURGH (Post-Gazette) - US Airways'' effort to coax concessions from its unionized workers -- something the bankrupt airline says it needs to survive -- faces a critical test today.
The airline''s 6,800 unionized mechanics and related workers are scheduled to vote for a second time on whether to accept a package of wage and benefit cuts.
The International Association of Machinists decisively rejected the same package last month -- an estimated $152 million in annual wage and benefit concessions over 6 1/2 years.
Earlier this month, the IAM leadership acceded to US Airways Chief Executive Officer David Siegel''s request by agreeing to hold another referendum to let the rank and file reconsider its earlier vote.
Results also are expected to be released today from a week of balloting by 7,200 reservation, ticket and gate agents, represented by the Communications Workers of America, who have been asked to accept $70 million a year in concessions. Balloting ended yesterday at 5 p.m.
On Aug. 11, the Arlington, Va.-based carried filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. US Airways has said that, if it cannot obtain voluntary concessions from the mechanics and other labor groups, it will ask a federal bankruptcy judge to abrogate their collective bargaining agreement.
The company also has warned that failure to reach an agreement on labor concessions could jeopardize the airline''s chances of obtaining $900 million in federal loan guarantees. The airline has said it also could lose $500 million in interim financing as well as $200 million in backing from the Texas Pacific Group, an investment group with a track record of turning around ailing companies.
In agreeing to hold a second election, IAM spokesman Joe Tiberi said the union also was concerned that some of its members might not have realized the consequences of voting no.
People were making false statements, but we wanted them to make a decision based on the facts. We wanted them to make an informed decision, Tiberi said.
Whatever the outcome, Tiberi said the union leadership would accede to the members'' wishes.
So far, the airline''s unionized pilots, flight attendants, flight dispatchers, simulators, baggage handlers and fleet service workers have ratified $616 million in annual wage and benefit concessions, while nonunion salaried workers have accepted an additional $30 million a year in cuts.
In anticipation of today''s IAM vote, few were hazarding any predictions about its outcome.
Many mechanics appear to be angry with both the IAM and the airline -- and this could influence the results.
Some are so angry with the IAM that they are working to replace the IAM with a smaller rival, the American Mechanics Fraternal Association.
Don Miller, a US Airways mechanic for 13 years, said he was insulted that IAM leaders contended that the rank and file were confused when they initially rejected the company''s offer.
We know the consequences. This isn''t an easy decision for any of the guys, said Miller, who is based in Pittsburgh. We''re tired of this. We''re tired of the IAM. And if it means this airline has to go under, so be it.
If the IAM members vote down the concessions and the bankruptcy judge abrogates the existing contract, US Airways has said it intended to impose lower wages and benefits on mechanics and related workers.
Even though it would impose new conditions, the airline''s attorneys believe that US Airways would then be required to resume bargaining with the IAM over a new contract under the rules of the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor relations in the airline and railroad industries.
In the airline''s view, there would have to be extensive mediation, overseen by the government, before the unionized mechanics could go on strike.
UAL777Flyer - exactly right. If it's so bad then take your no vote with you and quit and go get a job fixing the toilets at the Eat-N-Park in Moon or wherever else you think you're going to have it so much better. In PIT? I don't think so.
...And if it means this airline has to go under, so be it.

This type of attitude continues to amaze me. What gives anyone the right to advocate killing off a company completely? If you're unhappy with the IAM and company, than you can exercise your freedom to seek a job elsewhere. That is your right. But to advocate killing the company off is completely selfish and self-serving and totally ignores the efforts of thousands of US Airways employees who continue to work to save the company and who want a future, even if it means having to shoulder some level of pain. This IAM-Eastern attitude is completely ignorant. If US Airways shuts down, I'd love to fast forward 6 months from now to see how many of these militant hardliners have found jobs making as much money as they're making now and with the same level of benefits. Be careful what you wish for.

All unions except the IAM use an electronic ballot system. The IAM uses a manual system with polling done at each station. US has West Coast mechanics who I believe have their polling completed at 7:00 PM PDT or 10:00 EDT.

Once the vote is complete, the union will notify Employee Relations and dependent on the union desires, either the union will issue a press release and the company responds or the parties issue a joint press release.

I suspect the announcement will be made between 11:30 PM and 1:00 PM tonight.

Trade unionism run amuck. It's supposed to protect the membership from the company, but who protects the company from membership like this?