United mechanics authorize strike; walkout barred before Feb. 21

Friday, December 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ United Airlines mechanics have authorized a strike after two years of talks failed to produce a contract, the union said Friday. A walkout would not be legally allowed before Feb. 21.

Machinists spokesman Frank Larkin said 99 percent of the nearly 10,000 votes casts Thursday evening backed a strike. The union represents 15,000 United mechanics.

The mechanics last received a raise in 1994, and their efforts for increased pay have been hurt by an industry slowdown partly blamed on the Sept. 11 attacks.

United spokesman Joe Hopkins said the nation's No. 2 airline does not expect any disruption of service as a result of the vote.

United, which already was suffering through its worst year ever, has said any immediate raise is impossible and has withdrawn its latest contract offer. Hopkins said no negotiations are scheduled, and he didn't know when the two sides might sit down again.

The airline has cut 20,000 jobs and about 750 daily flights since Sept. 11. It lost $1.16 billion in the third quarter and has said it was losing about $15 million daily this fall.

A federally mandated ``cooling-off'' period was imposed last month and it expires Dec. 21. The Bush administration has said that it would extend that process when the countdown expires to prevent strike-related problems with holiday travel.

A presidential emergency board would then have another 60 days to try to settle the contract dispute before a strike could take place.