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United Airline mechanics strike averted

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- United Airlines mechanics and aircraft cleaners approved a new contract that will give them raises for the first time in eight years, ending a bitter two-year dispute that prompted presidential intervention.

The ratification -- approved by 59 percent of the voting membership -- averted a strike that could have started as soon as Thursday. Analysts have said a walkout would have grounded United and forced it into bankruptcy.

The company said the approval removes a key obstacle as it pursues a plan to stem its financial hemorrhaging. The airline lost an industry-record $2.1 billion last year.

"Today's ratification vote provides a foundation on which to build our strategic recovery efforts," UAL chief executive Jack Creighton said in a statement Tuesday night.

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The 12,800 mechanics and cleaners resoundingly rejected a previous contract offer three weeks ago and authorized a strike. But United sweetened the terms of the five-year pact and negotiators reached a tentative agreement Feb. 18, barely 36 hours before a walkout that could have shuttered the airline.

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