December 16, 2011: When 4,500 United Airline mechanics rejected the International Union’s proposed contract last June, they were told they would end up with something worse. But now they are voting on an improved contract, thanks to their rank and file unity and determination.
The second contract offer differs in some significant ways. First, the workers’ health care is protected for the length of the interim agreement, a major change. Second, the bonus is $11,500, instead of $3,000. There is also a $75,000 buy-out option for senior mechanics.
There are also changes in the union procedure, which rank and file members on the bargaining committee insisted on. The bargaining committee is not “selling” the contract, but presenting it to the members. Changes were made to the committee after the first rejection.
The contract is for 18 months, running through July 2013. United is slated to merge operations with Continental, where the mechanics are also Teamsters. A longer-term amalgamated agreement is on the horizon and members are looking ahead to that battle.
Several mechanics told us they are not really satisfied with the proposed contract, which still has no retroactive pay provision and other problems. But the first deal, which was heavily sold by the International Union, was not overwhelmingly rejected. This proposal will likely pass.
The members’ unity showed that rank and file power can make a difference. They organized, informed members, protected their health care language, and protected their health coverage.