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United Airlines Employees Union Pickets to Protest Outsourcing

Aug 28, 2013 6:32 am

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Despite its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines, United has not reduced jobs at the combined carrier to the degree one might have expected. Outsourcing certain ground-handling jobs, despite the ire of the unions, is one way to trim costs.

— Eliza Ronalds-Hannon

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Nancy Stone  / Chicago Tribune/MCT

A United Airlines 787 Dreamliner taxis to the gate at O'Hare International Airport. Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune/MCT

A group of United Airlines union employees picketed at O’Hare International Airport Tuesday, objecting to the airline’s plan to outsource ground-handling jobs at other airports.

The informational picket was organized by United customer service representatives, who are members of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, regarding the outsourcing of jobs at six airports, none in Chicago. The airports are in Albany and Rochester, N.Y.; Tucson, Ariz.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Cincinnati; and Grand Rapids, Mich. Jobs include those of gate agents, customer service agents and baggage handlers.

United and members of IAM nationwide are in contract negotiations.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the decision to use an outside vendor was a difficult one for the airline but “we have to look for new opportunities to be more efficient and run a financially sustainable business.” Affected employees had the right to transfer to other airports, and the airline offered an “early-out” program, she said.

The decision to outsource was unrelated to the merger of United and Continental, McCarthy said. No similar move has been announced for O’Hare, where United is the largest airline.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune. Visit the Chicago Tribune at Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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