United workers in shock over cuts

CLEVELAND -- Local political leaders held a press conferences about the United Airlines cuts Monday, and the employees affected are speaking out, too.

Hundreds are facing layoffs, from the catering staff to ticket agents, and they're still in shock over the announcement.

Flight attendants at Mayor Frank Jackson's press conference said there have been rumors for years that changes might be made at the Cleveland hub, but this announcement came out of the blue. Many of the workers found out via social media, and now their future is up in the air.

"There's tears, there's disbelief, there's emotions just running high," said Debbie Rhodes-Keele, a United Airlines attendant of 19 years.

Emotions are sky high for these flight attendants, many with roots in Cleveland having spent the last two decades working for United Airlines.

"I've been a flight attendant for over 20 years here in Cleveland," Terri LeBlank said. "This is something very new for all of us, and we're all just kind of like, what happened? Nobody prepared us for it. It was just, we got the statement, and here we are."

The statement from United Airlines outlines a reduction in force affecting up to 430 airport operations positions, plus about 40 catering workers. That means people from above and below the wing, but it will likely impact many more than that.

"We've got the ramps, we've got the personnel, we've got the caterings," Rhodes-Keele said. "We've got so much more in Cleveland. We're warriors. We're going to get through it, one step at a time."

The unions plans to be there every step of the way. Tony Midea, the president of Local 1731 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, had this message for its members:

"Just hang in there, I know this is devastating, but we're trying to do whatever we can to make life go on and easier," Tony Midea said.

Midea said he's in communication with the union leadership in Chicago, but the main focus is reaching out to all the local workers. There are more questions than answers for them right now, especially when it comes to relocating. Each employee is expected to get detailed information about the cuts in the coming weeks.

The reduction is scheduled to begin in June.


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