NEWARK, NJ – Thousands of United Airlines catering workers say they fear their jobs will be at risk despite a massive “taxpayer bailout” aimed at saving livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline’s answer? Stay tuned – nothing is set in stone.
On Wednesday, members of the New Jersey Unite Here union participated in a national day of protest and showed up en masse at Newark Liberty International Airport in solidarity with their colleagues in Houston, Denver and Honolulu.
Dozens of catering workers picketed the United Airline gate at Terminal C, holding signs that read “UNITED: Taxpayer Bailout” and “UNITED: Will I get fired?”
Here’s why they protested, according to a statement from their union:
“A year after the COVID-19 pandemic, United Airlines has already received $ 7.7 billion from the US government to keep the workforce and may receive billions more. But at a time when the workforce is from Airlines in need of job security, United has announced plans to outsource in-flight catering without giving workers any assurance that their jobs, wages and benefits will be protected. Meanwhile, United has disclosed million dollar awards for top executives, if they stay with the company for three years or until the state restrictions expire. “”
Union spokesmen continued:
United Airlines directly employs approximately 2,500 catering staff, including 1,000 in Newark, who are currently covered by the Payroll Support Program. However, the airline is putting all 2,500 of these jobs at risk with a call for proposals and solicitation of offers in-house for decades, will be outsourced as early as the fall. United’s catering staff are mostly colored people and immigrants. United’s share price has risen 40 percent since the start of the year and hit three times its pandemic in March, United Assumes out that the profit margin will exceed 2019 levels by 2023. “
“Many United employees have been there and dependent on these jobs for decades,” a union spokesman told Patch.
“United should not outsource these orders,” said Donald “D.” Taylor, President of Unite Here International Union.
“That is not what Congress intended when it approved unprecedented support for the aviation industry,” added Taylor.
One of the pickets on Wednesday included Jenkins Kolongbo of the Newark United Airlines catering kitchen.
Four Kolongbo employees died of COVID-19 in the past year, according to Unite Here. Kolongbo himself contracted the virus and while he was recovering he was temporarily unemployed and without health insurance.
Although Kolongbo is back to work in the kitchen, he is concerned that he won’t be long in coming, the union said.
“After United’s catering workers risked their health during COVID-19 to prepare their in-flight food and drink in large industrial kitchens, United’s announcement means that these workers could all be unemployed by October,” one said Speaker.
UNITED: NOT MADE DECISIONS YET
However, according to the airline, a decision has not yet been made about whether to outsource – or have catering staff work in Newark.
United Airlines offered the following statement to Patch on Thursday in response to the union’s concerns:
“Although United has submitted a Exploratory RFP, we have not yet made a decision to partner with a third party. Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our business, United continues to seek ways to do things differently and differently. ” Get more efficient wherever we can – this RFP is part of that effort. We regularly review partnerships with third party vendors that have the potential to make us more efficient and improve the experience for our customers. “
United is the only US airline that still operates its own kitchens.
During the pandemic, the airline has repeatedly stated that it will comply with the terms of the Payroll Support Program under CARES federal law.
Additionally, United has claimed that its catering staff aren’t the only ones in the company to be affected by the pandemic. For most of last year, the base salaries of the company’s CEO and President were reduced by 100 percent, and the base salaries of senior executives were reduced by 50 percent.
It all takes place amid a massive drop in passenger traffic that is still plaguing airlines across the country.
. @ United Catering staff picketed Newark, Denver, Houston and Honolulu airports today that read “UNITED: Taxpayer Bailout” pic.twitter.com/Sl6rHPMX9v
– UNITE HERE #PROAct (@unitehere) April 7th, 2021
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