United Airlines catering driver Fernando Herrera protests outside the George W. Bush International Airport in Houston on April 7, 2021 after learning the company is considering layoffs.


An estimated 900 United catering workers and their supporters staged protests in opposition to the airline on Wednesday.

The demonstrations exterior airports in Denver, Houston, Honolulu and Newark, New Jersey, got here practically three months after United’s vice chairman of buyer technique and innovation, Mandeep Grewal, despatched a letter to the catering workers informing them that the airline was “exploring the option of having a third-party come in and run our current in-house kitchen operations.”

The letter, which has been offered to NCS Business by the union UNITED HERE, mentioned United would seemingly be evaluating potential distributors for “several months” till the third quarter of 2021.

“I know this may cause concern for those who have roles within our kitchens and menu design teams and I want to assure you that the wellness of our employees and the impact to our customers will all be taken into consideration,” Grewal wrote. “We will consider a variety of providers, including those that we work with today,” she added.

United Airlines catering driver Fernando Herrera protests outside the George W. Bush International Airport in Houston on April 7, 2021 after learning the company is considering layoffs.United Airlines catering driver Fernando Herrera protests outside the George W. Bush International Airport in Houston on April 7, 2021 after learning the company is considering layoffs.
Leaders of UNITE HERE — the North American airport and hospitality workers union that has represented United’s catering staffers since 2019 — reached out to members of Congress after the letter was received.
US Congresswomen Sylvia R. Garcia and Eleanor Holmes Norton despatched a letter to United CEO Scott Kirby on Wednesday criticizing the company for taking federal cash to pay staff in the course of the worst of the pandemic solely to contemplate laying them off a yr later. Congress has given United $7.7 billion in Covid relief because the pandemic started, in keeping with the airline’s SEC filings.

“For United to plan to outsource thousands of jobs when the industry is already projecting financial recovery is acting in bad faith,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was offered by UNITED HERE.

The congresswomen additionally despatched a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in keeping with UNITED HERE, urging her to contemplate a “clawback” of the pandemic relief funds despatched to United if the company does ultimately lay off its catering workers.

“In the CARES Act, Congress gave the Treasury Secretary discretion to determine the ‘appropriate’ ‘terms and conditions’ of the payroll assistance,” the congresswomen wrote in their letter to Yellen. “To implement this program as Congress intended, we urge you to exercise your discretion.”

United’s newest 10-K annual report filed on March 1 revealed the airline has agreed to pay its CFO Gerry Laderman, president Brett J. Hart and CEO Kirby an estimated complete of $7.5 million in long-term contingent money bonuses designed to maintain the executives from leaving the company. United factors out its CEO and president didn’t obtain a wage for many of 2020 in consideration of the company’s pandemic woes.

“The long-term cash awards, which will not be paid until at least 2024, do not have one single cent from the CARES Act,” a United spokesperson mentioned in an emailed assertion.

But United workers nonetheless take challenge with the airline’s leaders getting bonuses whereas considering layoffs for some or the entire company’s catering staffers. UNITE HERE mentioned individuals of coloration, ladies and immigrants make up greater than half of its members.

“United has made a decision that could put thousands of workers out on the street,” mentioned Willy Gonzalez, secretary treasurer for UNITE HERE Local 23 in Houston.

United Airlines transportation coordinator Jenkins Kolongbo protests outside the Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, on April 7, 2021 after learning the company is considering layoffs.United Airlines transportation coordinator Jenkins Kolongbo protests outside the Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, on April 7, 2021 after learning the company is considering layoffs.

Fernando Herrera was one among an estimated 20 United catering workers marching with picket indicators exterior George Bush Intercontinental Airport terminal on Wednesday. The Colombian immigrant and married father of 1, who mentioned he has been with United for 20 years, mentioned he is uninterested in the the company preserving workers in the darkish about their futures after weeks with out an replace.

“United hasn’t really informed us about anything,” Herrera mentioned, talking by means of a Spanish translator. “It’s an injustice. It’s not fair that United even [after] getting the money from the government, is considering laying people off. That’s all me and my coworkers think about.”

A United spokesperson emphasised that the company has not decided about its catering companies.

“Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our business, United continues to explore ways to do things differently and become more efficient wherever we can,” the company mentioned. “We regularly explore third-party partnerships that have the potential to make us more efficient and improve the experience for our customers.”

United transportation coordinator Jenkins Kolongbo, 37, a Liberian immigrant who demonstrated exterior Newark International Airport on Wednesday, mentioned he thinks the company is profiting from the very fact its workers has not finalized its union deal. UNITE HERE mentioned catering workers have been working and not using a contract for a minimum of two years.

“The most important thing is the security of our job,” Kolongbo mentioned. “We don’t know if tomorrow we’re going to be able to have a job. People who’ve been here 15-20 years, they don’t know.”

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