By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
More than 100 United Airlines pilots showed up in front of the White House on Monday to protest their stalled labor talks with the airline. The pilots, wearing their uniforms, carried signs asking for help from President Obama and protesting United's use of Aer Lingus pilots to fly a Washington-to-Madrid route. The airline is "addicted to offshoring," according to the signs. In a vote taken on July 17, nearly 94 percent of the eligible pilots voted, and 99 percent of them agreed to a strike, according to the Air Line Pilots Association. The vote followed two years of negotiations after the merger of United and Continental.
"The strength of this vote clearly indicates the level of frustration our pilots have with management's disinterest in reaching a conclusion to negotiations," said Jay Pierce, chairman of the ALPA unit representing the Continental pilots. "Our pilots are tired of management's lack of progress with the merger and the damage to our airline that grows every day." Over the last decade, pilots made sacrifices to help the airline survive, ALPA said, and management has eliminated jobs by offshoring and outsourcing "at the very same time they have given themselves millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and perks." The airline said in a statement that a strike vote "is not uncommon at this point in negotiations and was expected." About 7,600 pilots work for United and 4,800 pilots for Continental, ALPA said.