United Airlines' regional carrier Air Wisconsin faces labor unrest

United Airlines' regional carrier Air Wisconsin faces labor unrest

This article was originally published by the Chicago Business Journal on September 17, 2018.

United Airlines could be facing labor action at Air Wisconsin, one of United's principal regional carrier vendors operating out of the Chicago-based carrier's largest hub at O’Hare International Airport.

Flight attendants from Air Wisconsin walked the picket line Friday afternoon outside Terminal 2 at O’Hare, the epicenter of United’s regional operations at that airport. The Air Wisconsin FAs were joined on the picket line by flight attendants and pilots from United Airlines, Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), Envoy and Horizon Air.

Air Wisconsin flight attendants, who belong to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), are pushing for a fair contract that includes higher wages. Their previous contract became amendable in July of 2016. Talks since then have been overseen by the National Mediation Board, but have not yielded a new contract.

Talks on a new contract were scheduled to continue this week in Milwaukee. An AFA spokeswoman said Air Wisconsin flight attendants are in the process of voting on whether to authorize a strike if there is no progress at the bargaining table.

Air Wisconsin in March of this year segued from operating as a regional carrier for American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) to joining the regional carrier ranks at United Airlines. The Appleton, Wisconsin-based carrier now has a long-term contract with United that has secured the regional airline's future.

Noted Ernie Lazernick, president of the Air Wisconsin unit of the Association of Flight Attendants: “Air Wisconsin management has security for the future. Now it’s time for flight attendants to have security with a new contract of their own. Air Wisconsin flight attendants deserve to earn a living wage that recognizes our role as aviation’s first responders.”

Air Wisconsin employs nearly 300 flight attendants, of whom more than 130 are domiciled in Chicago. Others are based at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and in Milwaukee.

United Airlines is a unit of United Continental Holdings (NASDAQ: UAL).

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