At a hearing held Wednesday by the House Subcommittee on Aviation, CWA Local 3645 Vice President Donielle Prophete called on Congress and American Airlines to address serious safety concerns for airline workers.
During her testimony, Prophete noted that inadequate lighting on the tarmac, a concern repeatedly raised by her local with Piedmont management, likely led to the tragic death of Charlotte ramp worker Kendrick Hudson in August, 2019. The tug Hudson was driving hit a piece of baggage that had fallen on the tarmac, causing the tug to flip over.
In addition to insufficient lighting on the tarmac, damaged and outdated equipment and understaffing are key safety concerns for airline ground workers. Prophete said that these hazards are made worse by low wages at regional carriers like Piedmont, which lead to agents working long, exhausting shifts and taking additional jobs. Low wages contribute to high turnover, which exacerbates the understaffing problems.
"American is a highly profitable company and pays out billions to wealthy shareholders and executives. Yet, American is cutting costs and outsourcing passenger service work to low-wage contractors and regional airlines, like Piedmont," Prophete said.
Prophete said that action is needed to ensure that airlines are implementing the protocols on passenger rage required by the FAA Reauthorization Act. She also recommended that Congress work to establish ramp worker staffing ratios, so that there is an adequate number of agents working a flight, and mandate safety standards for ramp operations to guarantee a safe working environment at all airports. Prophete's recommendations were widely reported in the media.
At the congressional hearing, Dr. Brian Callaci also testified on the findings of a new CWA-commissioned study, Fissuring in Flight, using government data to show how major airline carriers have employed outsourcing, restructuring, and consolidation to suppress wages and erode the quality of jobs in the airline industry. Flight Attendants at the eight regional carriers represented by AFA-CWA have also raised concerns about unsafe conditions due to understaffing and the need to bridge the gap between regional and mainline carriers to make the industry better and safer.
In a new survey of nearly 500 Piedmont agents across the country, ninety-four percent of agents view safety as a serious problem at their station, with 74% reporting that they feel rushed to do their jobs because of understaffing and more than half of the agents reporting that they work with defective equipment in all or most of their shifts.
Watch Prophete's testimony at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChsHe5VcHxQ.
CWA Local 3645 Vice President Donielle Prophete (right) prepares to testify before the House Aviation Subcommittee.