856 at united airlines

TEAMSTERs: Scott abrahamson, John Johnson, and Tracy MacCorkell

Worksite: United Airlines Maintenance Base, San Francisco International Airport

On the job: 76 years (collectively)

Job title: Machinist (Scott), Airframe & Power Plant Mechanic (John), and Radio Electronics Technician (Tracy)

What That Means:

"I work at the terminal. We do fast turns on aircraft. We're turning airplanes. If we can fix it, we fix it. A lot of it is replacing a light bulb, maybe a computer, a fault light, replacing a component, and doing an operation check. It's fast-paced, so you have to think on your feet; you have to pay attention. There's always something going on, so you have to watch out for yourself because you're out on the tarmac, and there are rampers, cleaners, caterers, etc. moving all over the place. You have to watch out for yourself or you'll get run over." —Tracy MacCorkell

"At the machine shop at United we do overhaul repairs. The mechanics will tear an engine apart, it goes through inspection. If they determine it needs to be repaired, depending on what the repair is, it'll end up in the machine shop. I have to set that part, regardless if it's a tiny little three-inch part or a nine-foot shaft, I have to take the measuring devices, the equipment that I'm issued to measure and determine what I'm supposed to machine. I'll set it on the machine, and I have paperwork determine what I'm supposed to do with it. I'll machine it to a specific size, within a half thousandths of an inch—you can't really see that with your naked eye. Your strand of hair is typically three thousandths of an inch." —Scott Abrahamson

Getting started in the airline industry: "I'm what's referred to as a 'legacy'.  My father was a machinist at United. I needed a good job, and it was union job. It had good benefits, good pay. I was a single father at the time, so getting health care and better wages was very important to me and my small family. I applied at United in the welding department and eventually went to school and got my A&P licenses and moved into engine work." —John Johnson

"I always liked airplanes and I always liked airports and traveling. I'm mechanically inclined anyway, so I said, 'You know what? I think I'm going to go back to school.' I went to City College right here in San Francisco and got my airframe power plant license. That was back in '97 and I hired on with United right after that." —Tracy MacCorkell

"A neighbor of mine worked here for United and he encouraged me to apply. I started out in the tool crib. I was essentially handing out tools, fixturing, measuring equipment. Whenever the guys needed something, I'd go and issue it out to them. I've always been good with my hands and I enjoyed that work, so I was able to finish my schooling and upgraded to the machine shop. " — Scott Abrahamson

High Standards: "I repair the part. It gets sent out depending on the repairs required. It comes back...to finish machining it to a very tight tolerance so that it fits the engine correctly...Then once I'm done with that, I have an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) stamp that is my file number for United Airlines and that goes with the part and the repair. So as long as that part is in flight, in service, whatever, my repair that I've done to that part stays with that for the life of that part. Ten years possibly. So there's a lot of pressure and responsibility to do it correctly. It's important what we do. There is a great deal of pride with that, knowing that not many people can do that. I still marvel at it. I've been doing it 29 years, and I still look up at the planes and go, 'Wow, that was pretty cool.'" —Scott Abrahamson

Military Connections: 

"I do EFS, which is Emergency Field Service. I've flown all over the world. These are charter flights. We fly with mechanics with the airplanes to places that don't have maintenance, so they need to have qualified technicians. Some of these are military charters where we're transporting military personnel, so it's pretty special for me. I don't necessarily like taking them over, but I love bringing them home. I'll never forget the first charter I had. When we landed, the flight attendant...they love doing this as well...got on and said [we were coming back into Norfolk, Virginia] said, "Welcome home to the United States of America," and the whole plane exploded in cheers. It sent chills up and down my spine. I'll never forget that."  —Tracy MacCorkell

"The best part about my job is that you actually make a difference. When you show up, you can see that you were there and did some work and you moved the job forward. Working for the Airforce is kind of a little special bump because you hear their aircraft flying on the news all the time, and you go, 'I fixed that." [United Airlines has a contract with Pratt and Whitney aerospace company to maintain United States Airforce engines]. It makes people safe. It gets them from one place to another and supports a lot of people. We set the standard several years ago where they spent over a million hours in flight without a shut down of an engine and the record hasn't been beaten yet." —John Johnson

The next generation: "My son's a sophomore in high school and at the beginning of the year we met with his career counselor, who asked my son what he would like to do after high school. And my son said he'd like to do what his dad does. He'd like to work on airplanes. And it kind of took me by surprise because he had never said that before. I take him to the airport, and he likes to fly, but never mentioned that he'd like to do what his dad does. It made me feel a little bit of pride. I always tell him that you spend a lot of time at work, so make sure it's something that you like to do—something that you have an interest in. Don't do it just for the money. Do it because you like it. I really like what I do. I like the people. I'm lucky enough to have people that I work with that are really cool, and really smart and have taught me a lot. I love what I do; it makes the day go by. Sometimes I can't believe I swipe in and then it's time like, 'Oh, it's time to go home. Oh my goodness. It seemed like a half an hour went by.'"—Tracy MacCorkell

On being Teamsters: 

"It takes a special breed to want to be a union steward. You have to be a good listener. You have to be a counselor, a negotiator, and a moderator. I've been through the last three unions with United Airlines, and I've never been more proud of being a Teamster than I am now. As difficult as being a shop steward can be, it's incredibly gratifying knowing that people trust us. And if you're doing your job correctly, you have both management and the membership appreciating what you're trying to do. It's a tough job, but it's gratifying to do it. And I'm proud to have my union badge, and my shop steward badge. I'm very proud to be a Teamster." —Scott Abrahamson

"I'm proud to be a Teamster because the Teamsters came onto the property under very harsh circumstances. We had bankruptcies, we had a downturn in the economy, we had a contact that was was amendable, which most people think of as expired. But our contracts under the Railway Labor Act don't expire, they just become amendable. Which means we're sitting there working under the same pay scale of five years ago and the company loves it. When the Teamsters came in, they had a lot more resources to fight United. United's old school. They're a legacy carrier. They fight everything whether they should or not. The other union—I'm not knocking them—but they didn't get the job done. The Teamsters went through the long, slow process of getting us a good contract and I'm very proud of the contract we wound up with." —John Johnson