Reps. García, Watson Coleman, Cohen Stress Protection for Consumers and Workers in Economic Assistance Proposals for Airlines

March 19, 2020
Press Release
Any relief package must include strong guarantees to protect jobs, pensions, and benefits for all workers

Chicago, IL - Today, Representatives Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Steve Cohen (TN-09) urged leaders in the House and Senate to include protections for workers and consumers in any financial assistance aimed at supporting the airline industry as part of further economic stimulus to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. 

“We should absolutely reject any blank-check bailout for the airline industry without making sure the money is first spent on workers who need it most--flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers including contract workers like cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, security officers, and baggage handlers,” said Rep. Chuy García. “Airlines spent 96% of their free-cash-flows for the last 10 years to pad shareholder pockets. Any money we hand over must be strictly conditioned. They don't deserve a blank-check bailout. Any relief package must include strong guarantees to protect jobs, pensions, and benefits for all workers and include strong limits on lobbying costs, executive pay and share buybacks.”

“As we begin to deal with the toll COVID-19 will take economically, it’s obvious that we’ll need to offer support across a number of industries, aviation in particular. But what we cannot allow is a handout of taxpayer money without clear protections for the consumers who rely on these companies, and the workers at every level who keep them in business,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “As we look to build the next package of stimulus funds, we want to make sure American families are at the front of everyone’s minds. That’s a simple and critical step.”

“The coronavirus is severely hurting our economy, and some financial assistance may be needed for some of our most affected industries, such as aviation and tourism,” said Congressman Cohen. “But the larger public interest must be protected, especially considering the way some major airlines have dealt with recent soaring profits. Any infusion of money to the airlines must have strings attached – including new rules to prohibit consumer abuses like unfair change and cancellation fees; protections for front-line workers like flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers; special consideration for our smaller, regional carriers not represented by the major trade associations; medium-sized airports, like Memphis International Airport; and the development of long-term strategies and targets to reduce the carbon footprint of the airline industry. The new money should not be used to buy back stock or provide executive bonuses. We should also take into consideration that the industry can borrow at extraordinarily low interest rates to meet its needs.”

Recommendations include:

  • Rules to prohibit consumer abuses like unfair change and cancellation fees;
  • Employment protections for front-line workers like flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers (cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, security officers, and baggage handlers) including salary, benefits and leave protections;
  • Support for airports themselves as a critical piece of infrastructure that are losing revenue from collecting of fees, concessions, and parking;
  • Prioritization of payroll payments with staffing level, benefit, and minimum wage assurances;
  • Clear oversight, using a body with subpoena power, and a panel that must include representatives from airlines and unions representing aviation workers.
  • Prohibit share buybacks, dividends, executive compensation for at least a period of five years;
  • Impose strict lobbying limits and a five-year merger and acquisition moratorium; 
  • Depending on the size of the loan, all recipients must set aside one or more seats on the board for a representative elected by workers; and
  • Any company that files for Chapter 11 within 5 years of receiving a stimulus grant will be subject to all of the provisions of “Protecting Employees and Retirees in Bankruptcies Act, H.R. 138 (Conyers, 2017) and S. 2518 (Durbin, 2018).

To see the full letter, click here.

 

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