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United Airlines Mechanics Threaten Strike, Crash Investors Conference

United Airlines mechanics threatened management with a strike Tuesday during an investors conference following years of stressed contract negotiations.

The airline employs more than 9,000 unionized mechanics who are overdue for a new labor contract. The Teamsters union and airline, however, have been unable to agree on a finalized agreement despite years of negotiations. Hundreds of mechanics crashed the Aviation, Transportation and Industrials Conference to protest airline management in full view of potential investors.

“United’s mechanics overwhelmingly authorized a strike because the company’s executives are lining their own pockets,” Teamsters Airline Division Director David Bourne said in a statement. “While failing to keep the promises they made to employees who took major concessions during United’s bankruptcy.”

The mechanics voted to authorize a strike Feb. 16 after rejecting the last contract proposal by the airline. Mechanics took issue with several provisions in the contact, including compensation. The union is now petitioning the National Mediation Board to give workers the legal authority to go on strike. Getting permission doesn’t mean they have to strike but it means they could legally.

The board invited the two sides Mar. 3 to meet and discuss the failed negotiations. It hoped to resolve the issue without having to authorize a strike but negotiations have still been troubled. Mechanics have protested and picketed while they await official permission to walkout on the airline in a strike action.

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The airline and union have been in negotiations since 2012 with compensation remaining a primary point of disagreement. The union denounced the airline Oct. 2 for continuously trailing behind industry standards for compensation despite record profits. Federal mediators were brought in to resolve the dispute in 2013 but the two sides were still unable to arrive at an agreement.

United Airlines has had to negotiate contracts with several large unions since merging with Continental Airlines in 2010. Airlines employ a wide range of workers and so they often have to work with many different types of unions. It reached a two-year contract extension Jan. 22 with the Air Line Pilots Association. It also reached an agreement Feb. 16 with the Professional Airline Flight Control Association.

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