United passenger service workers vote for union

AP News
Posted: Mar 07, 2012 5:50 PM
United passenger service workers vote for union

One of the biggest groups of workers at United Airlines voted on Wednesday to stay in a union.

The vote by 16,720 reservations workers and gate agents means an all-union frontline workforce at United, which is the biggest airline in the world after its 2010 merger with Continental. At No. 2 Delta Air Lines Inc., pilots are the only large unionized group.

Before the United-Continental merger, United's passenger service workers were in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Their colleagues at Continental weren't in a union.

According to the IAM, 8,305 people voted for the union, while 5,865 voted for no representation. The federal National Mediation Board ran the seven-week vote.

The passenger service workers are United's second-biggest workgroup, behind its 21,400 flight attendants.

United still needs joint contracts to cover each of its combined workgroups.

The IAM now represents more than 31,000 workers at the airlines, including baggage handlers and stock clerks. The union had represented workers at Northwest Airlines but lost the votes to keep them after Delta bought Northwest in 2008.

"Today's win provides all IAM members at United with the advantages of size and strength that airlines themselves are seeking through consolidation," said Sito Pantoja, the IAM's Transportation General Vice President.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the company will work closely with the union on a contract "that is fair to the company and fair to employees, and we will continue to work together with them to build a great culture at the new United."

Shares of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc. fell 9 cents to close at $19.79.