On Thursday, CWA President Chris Shelton joined with leaders of all the unions that represent workers at American Airlines and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker to send a letter calling on Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Congressional leaders to take steps to protect the airline industry as a whole, American Airlines, and its employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We urge you to take all available steps to invest in the continued viability of the industry and our airline so that we can properly lead our country’s return to stability when this crisis inevitably subsides,” the union leaders and Parker wrote. “The investment being sought by our airline is necessary to ensure its continued viability and to, most importantly, lessen the impact of this pandemic on our employees and passengers.”
The letter points out the extraordinary erosion in demand for air travel during the COVID-19 crisis, with American reducing its international capacity by 75% and domestically by nearly 30%, and urges Mnuchin and congressional leadership to step in to protect workers. “Without airplanes to fly, mechanics, flight attendants, pilots, dispatchers, fleet, and airport workers, just to name a few, will lose the ability to provide for their families. Importantly, we share a common goal to keep employees on payroll so that American is ready to fly when this crisis is behind us,” the letter says.
Earlier this week, CWA President Shelton and other union leaders with members working in the transportation industry released a joint statement calling for elected officials to put transportation workers front and center as they consider how to respond to the crisis.
The statement calls on governments and employers to ensure that workers are given the guidance, training, resources and equipment to both keep themselves healthy and to prevent further spread of the virus; for mandatory paid sick leave and that Congress designate COVID-19 as a serious health condition for the purposes of the Family and Medical Leave Act; and for a serious economic stimulus effort that provides adequate support for workers and contains protections to ensure that companies that receive public funds cannot use this money to undermine workers’ livelihoods by offshoring or outsourcing jobs, or by handing the money over to shareholders in the form of increased dividends and stock buybacks.
CWA has long raised concerns about stock buybacks as a harmful extraction of profits that undermines long-term investment. Now the pandemic has shown that the airline industry has little cash cushion because the top carriers have used much of their record-high profits on buybacks -- 96% of free cash flow in the last decade.
“Half-measures, jumbled guidance, and corporate welfare will not contain this pandemic, and will certainly not provide the economic stimulus that we desperately need. We need policies that put workers first and position our country to flourish once this crisis is over,” the union leaders wrote.
“As the government and our elected officials consider how to respond to the pandemic, our union is fighting on the front lines to make sure that passenger service agents and their families are not being left behind,” said CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt, Chair of CWA's Passenger Service Airline Council. “Passenger service agents work hard every day to keep the flying public safe as they travel. In order to save the airline industry, we must reocgnize that service and keep agents safe by doing everything we can to provide real relief in this time of crisis.”