Mymai Peter, 25, says one Boeing 777 flight can equal 30 carts and she might see 11 flights in one shift.
“The work is really heavy, heavier than my body,” said Peter, who has worked in United catering sie 18. “You don’t know how many times I have to go home and sleep with my leg up just to make the blood go down.”
While some workers want to unionize, United Airlines is arguing that many others were wrongly deceived or pressured by the union to join.
The company wrote to the National Mediation Board that a “substantial number of (the) authorizations were obtained through fraud and misrepresentation from UNITE HERE organizers” and that they “falsely portrayed themselves as acting as agents of United Airlines while soliciting these authorizations.”
Some employees were threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t agree to unionize, United Airlines said.
The National Mediation Board launched an investigation in March in response to the company’s concerns.
“We believe the union’s allegations against United Airlines and its management are baseless and we look forward to hearing the results of the National Mediation Board’s investigation,” Benenati said in an email.
Martha Tipelo holds up a Unite Here Local 5 lanyard.
Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat
But Peter, Aritos and Tipelo say it’s United Airlines that’s threatening them, not the union.
After Tipelo wore her bright red Unite Here Local 5 lanyards to work in January, she said a staff member in the dispatch office grabbed it and said, “Take this off.”
Aritos said she was also told to take of her lanyard. Some of her colleagues did, but she refused.
“I said, ‘No, I like this one, I’m going to use this one,” she said.
Ironically, Aritos said originally only managers were allowed to have bright blue United lanyards but the company started giving them out for free when workers showed up with the red ones.
The company allegedly gave out anti-union flyers and put up a TV in the cafeteria with anti-union messages. Similar screens were reportedly also installed in Newark and Houston.
Workers say the airlines even flew out a United Airlines manager from Chuuk to Denver and Honolulu to try to persuade them not to unionize. There aren’t any unions in Chuuk, which is home to less than 50,000 people.
“We take that responsibility seriously to ensure that our employees have access to the information that they need to make a fully informed decision about what’s best for them,” Benenati said in response to the allegations.
The company’s efforts may be paying off — Aritos and Tipelo say some of their colleagues are now afraid to move forward with the unionizing process. One worker who was handing out flyers with Tipelo last week declined to be interviewed because he’s worried about how it will affect his job.
The airlines’ reaction got the attention of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who wrote to United Airlines along with four colleagues urging the company to respect workers’ rights.
“We are aware of allegations that United Airlines managers have intimidated, questioned and retaliated against workers engaged in protected union activities in the workplace,” the lawmakers wrote. “We call on you to examine these allegations and to take the necessary steps to ensure labor rights are fully respected.”
In the meantime, the workers must wait until the investigation is over. Cohorst said the National Mediation Board recently visited Newark to interview workers and Honolulu is up next. That’s good news to Tipelo.
“We’re tired of waiting, waiting,” she said. “We just want to vote already.”
Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.
The post United Airlines Resists Honolulu Workers’ Effort To Unionize appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.