Oscar Munoz Takes A Stand His Employees Should Respect

I’ve openly wondered recently whether Oscar Munoz can change the culture at United Airlines.  His decision a few weeks ago to forego a sizable bonus was a noble one.  The culture at United when he took the reins did not appear to be heading in the right direction.  Since then, many of Oscar’s public actions and comments seem to support the belief that he’s working hard to improve the culture.

I noticed an interesting comment Oscar made during United’s recent annual meeting.  Now, I sincerely hope that this discussion doesn’t throw us off the rails and head first into a political one.  But, here’s what he said:

During a Q&A time, a man in the audience asked Munoz why United cut ties to the NRA, adding:

I suppose you are ignoring the fact that the NRA had nothing to do with what happened in Parkland and that the perpetrator had zero affiliation with the NRA. But, hey, congratulations on your virtue signaling. What exactly did investors get out of that? The company is willfully giving up money. That’s an odd choice for an airline company in a hyper-competitive industry.

Munoz did not like the question, quickly answering:

Sir, it wasn’t political. It was personal with regard to my family at United. That’s why we made the decision. We aren’t here to make political conversation or strike political debate. We’re here to serve customers.

My Two Cents

Matthew goes on to say that he thinks the decision is both personal and political.  I understand his point, but I see the issue differently.  I see it as a CEO who’s not afraid to stand up for his employees in public.  It’s impressive to me in that this is no small issue.  The gun violence debate in our country isn’t for the faint of heart.  Knowing that, Oscar chose to give a more emotional, personal answer than you’d normally expect a CEO to give during an annual meeting.

That’s the person I think Oscar Munoz is.  And yet, United still seems to struggle to make progress in key areas.  Committed, happy employees make it easier to move forward.  United struggled recently by making changes to the employee bonus plan that didn’t seem to be fully baked.  They rolled those changes back shortly thereafter.  A similar thing happened with in-flight meals recently.

Corporations need to make money, United is no exception.  I’m still in the camp that Scott Kirby’s arrival doesn’t help the airline achieve those goals.  I don’t know if there’s an internal struggle on how best to move forward.  It sure seems like there could be.  I’m in favor of a vision that builds employee pride and loyalty.  Those attributes should lead to a better operation.

Regardless of where employees stand on the issue at hand regarding the NRA, they should respect the fact that their CEO isn’t afraid to back employees in the face of negative feedback.


The post Oscar Munoz Takes A Stand His Employees Should Respect was published first on Pizza in Motion


    1. Michael, I don’t see Doug making any comments of this nature. Just strikes me as a very personal answer from a position that’s usually all pre-planned talking points.

  1. How is shunning the NRA (who had zero to do with the referenced shooting) and not talking about it until confronted “taking a stand?” How it is “personal” if he is using his position as CEO to make a political statement? When he going to stand against pharmaceutical companies? Or Alcoholic beverage companies? or fossil fuels? or cancel service to countries that support terrorists or have terrible human rights records against women or LGBT people? Why does United code share to Saudi Arabia? When will Oscar put his (shareholders) money where his mouth is?

  2. I see it as this: liberals think everything they think or believe in is not political, and just the right thing to do. It’s called noble cause corruption. You think as long as you believe the “right” things, you can justify any actions. It’s why you can live extrenely high co2 emitting lifestyles and still feel self righteous. You liberal bloggers constantly cheerlead any liberal actions, and condemn any conservative actions, then try to pretend like you are just an unbiasd bystander? What a joke.

    The NRA is not a criminal organization. Quite the contrary. NRA members are much less likely to commit crimes. When high powered liberal elitists give up their armed security, I’ll consider giving up my own relatively meager security.

    Stick to travel news, or risk alienating more of your viewership. I’m done with you now for sure.

    1. Fu, bye! Liberal is about the last thing you’ll hear people refer to me as. I appreciate that he spoke about the issue personally instead of talking points, regardless of his stance. If that makes you want to stop reading my blog, the door is over there.

  3. I don’t see how this backs his employees rights under the 2nd amendment. It’s all about trying to be politically correct. He could have a massive armed security team and have multiple guns in his home to protect his family and would still go this direction to make him and/or United look good. It’s like standing in the middle of the road to get hit by a bus though. I also wonder how many United crew members are in the FFDO program. Enough about our rights though. Just looking at this as purely political it would be like him saying he does or doesn’t back Planned Parenthood as a “personal” opinion on the behalf of his United “family”. I wonder how many folks would enjoy discussing that.

    1. Dan, I don’t think he was talking about the second amendment. But, that’s just my opinion. I don’t necessarily think the NRA discount retraction really made the airlines look “good”.

  4. I see this as highly hypocritical of him. What about the employees killed or who lost a loved one to a drunk driver? Yet United still serves alcohol in its clubs and aircraft. There is more direct causation and reason for a “personal” motivation than with removal of the NRA discount.

    The fact of the matter is that Oscar kowtowed to the demands of a 17 y/o and the movement behind him.

  5. I think the upper level management is the problem. These “half baked” policies and “business culture” issues start at the top. It seems to me they need a lot more Oscar Munoz’s in the top half dozen levels of management to get any real change made. A CEO who is strong is good, but in reality you need strong leaders at the director and senior manager level. Those are usually the long tenured employees who care about the company the most.

  6. I just don’t get your admiration for a move that had no stated rationale. Such shallowness. And yes, virtue-signaling at its elite-finest. Seems you’re doing same.

  7. Ed, of course it is political (and I am not a gun owner or NRA fan.) Likewise his response was probably pre prepared to aviod discussion about it. To say it is not political is showing that you have a blind spot. If you want to have a political bent like some miles and points bloggers that is fine with me just realize that fact

    1. Marty, I care about certain political issues but I don’t care to air those matters on my blog. I’d be surprised if the answer was pre-ordained, as you indicated. But, anything is possible.

  8. As a United employee, I would like to say your article is spot on. I do believe our CEO cares about us, but I feel as if other people that are also higher up in the company are standing in his way of making our airline a better place for customers and employees. And I feel like Scott Kirby is bringing us back to the days of Jeff Smisek. Oscar actually came to our airport before he was fully back to work after his heart transplant, and did something amazing for us.

    Our station, as well as several others, were on the chopping block to be outsourced about two years before Oscar took office. Those stations included are: BIL (Billings, Montana), IND (Indianapolis), KOA (Kona), LIH (Lihue), OGG (Maui), RNO (Reno, Nevada), SAT (San Antonio), SJC (San Jose, California) and TUL (Tulsa, Oklahoma), as well as customer service employees at ATL (Atlanta), MCI (Kansas City, Missouri), RDU (Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina), RSW (Fort Myers, Florida), SMF (Sacramento, California) and STL (St. Louis). So the company and union came to an agreement (it was voted in favor) these stations could stay open and operate as normal IF the pay scale decreased, all pensions were terminated, and 401k match was terminated for those employees who work at those locations. So when Oscar visited our station (I won’t specify which one, but I will say it’s in the list above), that pay cut was asked about. Oscar looked like he was shocked and in disbelief that he even heard such a thing. He did not even know that was a thing. He even had to ask just to make sure he heard what he thought he heard. He looked annoyed and disappointed. He told us that it’s completely unfair that there are wage differences and benefit differences. He told us that he would get us, and every other station on that list, the benefits back that we deserve “with a swipe of a pin.” And sure enough, he did it. The union tried to take credit for it, but we know who really did it.

    I like Oscar. He’s really trying to get us back on the right track. He just has some obstacles to deal with. And a lot of them were left over from Smisek’s nonsense. Currently, our station and a few others are protected against outsourcing until 2024. I really hope we can have something more long term in the future because it needs to stop. I have co-workers that commute as far as 300+ miles to work because their station got outsourced and I feel bad for them. They hate doing it, but they don’t want to give up everything that they’ve worked for towards retirement. I just hope that United keeps going in the right direction.

  9. I’m genuinely interested in how he was standing with his employees with this decision? Were many of them gunning (pun intended) to rid the company of the NRA discount? Or was it the Hogg guy who put the pressure on? The former plays to his narrative, the latter doesn’t.

    And I’m curious, did he listen to his employees who might support the NRA? Perhaps none of United’s 88,000 employees hold that view?

    My conclusion: not only was this not not political, it was purely political. There’s virtually no other logical conclusion. And I agree with the poster above that while his statement might seem unusually personal, it was almost certainly preplanned that way in order to shut down discussion on the issue.

    Also, I don’t begrudge Munoz for this decision nor do I question his intent to improve the airline. But seems he’s trying to take a swim and not get wet.

  10. Sorry for the backlash that you are getting Ed. We can see how passionate people feel about this topic as it is a difficult one to handle. The way I see it is: choice. Mr. Munoz has the choice to part ways with any entity, and the custumers who support such entity have the choice to give their money to other airlines. It’s a free market and there are plenty of choices on the air. Mr. Munoz knows this, we all do. We can choose, but only time will tell how profitable his choice is. It’s obviously not financially driven. We can respect that, and respect each other’s opinions. That seems to be the hard part. Just sending you good vibes, in case there was too much negativity.

    1. Belle,

      I certainly hope he wasn’t thinking about profit when he made the choice, since he indicates he made it to support his employees. I have no idea if he’s personally in favor of or against gun control. Also not really something I’m curious about.

      Appreciate you sending good vibes. Many commenters want to paint my post as a political one. Can’t stop people from doing that, even if it’s not the case.

  11. So, just getting around to reading this…and the comments. Wow.

    First, a little dissapointed in you Ed. You knew this would be a political post, yet told someone to FU? Thats no way to to be as a blog owner…someone who NEEDS people to read what you write. As a person who travels and encourages my family to read your blogs, you were the one sight that was safe for all ages. Guess that was a mistake.

    Maybe I’m just a little too sensitive, but if both sides of the aisle can’t have a respectful debate, then I won’t listen to eaither side.

    1. Except I’m not having a political discussion. Many others seem to be. But, I haven’t commented one way or the other on the gun discussion. I was and am impressed that an airline CEO went off-script to discuss his employees. Acts like that and foregoing a bonus seem to me to be efforts to connect with employees.

      All due respect, I don’t need people to read my blog. I didn’t start this blog for financial reasons and continue to spend more than I take in from ads and affiliate revenue. I write because I enjoy it.

      Sorry you see it differently, but I’m not carving out a position on either side of the aisle, even if folks in the comments say otherwise. I don’t write my blog to talk about politics and I certainly don’t intend to start now. Plenty of other places to argue about that sort of stuff.

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