Over 80 Members of Congress Urge American Airlines CEO To Support Living Wages For Passenger Service Agents

Rep. Jan Schakowsky led a congressional letter to Doug Parker that raises concerns about low wages at the $1.9 billion airline, calls on him to uphold promises made in support of corporate tax cuts
Monday, February 12, 2018

WASHINGTON - As contract negotiations for thousands of passenger service professionals at American Airlines subsidiary Envoy Air continue, over 80 members of Congress sent a letter to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker on February 8 urging him to “conclude your collective bargaining negotiations and ensure that all of your employees can earn a living wage.” Parker made more than $11.3 million in 2017; his company posted $1.9 billion profits; yet thousands of Envoy agents make as little as $9.48 an hour. The letter’s signatories also call on American to follow through on promises made in support of recent corporate tax cuts, encouraging the company to ensure workers’ salaries “provide for the ability to support themselves and their families.”

“We were surprised to learn that many of these agents earn less than $11 an hour and, as a result, must deal with constant churn at work and struggle at home to make ends meet,” the letter states. Calling on the company to raise pay, the letter concludes: “there is no stronger investment that American Airlines can make for its future, the future of the traveling public and the future of our communities.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. led 81 members of Congress on the letter. Other signatories include: Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.; Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.; Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.; and Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. The full letter, which was sent to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker on Thursday, and list of signatories can be found here.

“Passenger service agents play a vital role in getting our nation’s travelers to and from their destinations safely. They are essential not just to the well-being of the flying public but to the financial well-being of U.S. carriers," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.. "I hope that ongoing contract negotiations between the Communications Workers of America and Envoy – American Airlines’ wholly-owned subsidiary – are promptly concluded and that passenger service agents receive living wages. Americans who work hard should receive wages that allow them to meet their families’ needs – not be required to work multiple jobs or rely on food stamps to get by.”

“It’s shameful that at a massive, profitable corporation like American Airlines many employees must worry about having enough money to keep their lights on and their children fed,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America . “CWA is committed to negotiating a fair contract for passenger service agents at American's wholly-owned Envoy subsidiary and standing up to big companies like American that are trying to take advantage of working people. American should listen to the growing calls of elected officials, the agents and their union family and agree to sustainable, family-supporting wages for all of its passenger service agents.”

The letter urges American to deliver on promises made by proponents of corporate tax cuts passed in 2017, including the company’s own corporate lobbyists, who said they would “spur a new era of job growth and economic development.” For American Airlines, the benefits of these corporate tax cuts have already started to pour in. While the airline is not a cash taxpayer -- and may not be for several years because of its 2011 bankruptcy -- in January, the company reported a $7 million benefit to its tax expenses in 2017 as a result of tax rate changes and anticipates tax refunds of $170 million in 2019 and 2020 as a result of the repeal of the Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax.

Although the company recently announced a one-time bonus for employees, including those at Envoy as a result of the tax cuts, the letter calls on the company to provide secure, sustainable pay for its workforce, saying a “successful American Airlines must support living wages for its frontline employees.”

This reflects similar sentiments shared by CWA President Chris Shelton in a letter sent to Parker late last year, which urged him to commit to raising wages by $4,000 – the amount tax cut supporters and lobbyists had promised. Shelton met with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker in early December to make it clear that CWA was holding American accountable for the low wages at its subsidiaries.

Momentum in the fight for a fair contract for all agents at American is building. In recent weeks and months, agents and other CWA members rallied at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Philadelphia International Airport, Douglas International Airport in Charlotte and Orlando International Airport to talk with passengers about their poverty-level pay and tell American to support living wages. By speaking out and standing up, agents at American are winning pay increases for themselves and their families. Just last month, 4,600 CWA-represented workers at another American Airlines subsidiary, Piedmont Airlines, won major raises, improved benefits and other gains in a new tentative contract agreement.


Three-thousand eight hundred Communications Workers of America (CWA)-represented passenger service agents at American Airlines subsidiary Envoy Airlines have been speaking out about poverty pay at the company. Agents at Envoy are paid as little as $9.48 an hour, forcing many to work extremely long hours and rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance. These conditions are also fueling significant turnover among Envoy agents, leading to tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary training and hiring costs for the company.

The agents work at some of the nation’s biggest and busiest airports as well as smaller regional airports that connect flyers to travel destinations around the country. They provide services essential to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for flyers, such as managing pre-flight checks, de-escalating tense situations and helping passengers re-book their flights during inclement weather. The work done by agents at Envoy and American’s other regional carriers is also an increasingly vital component of the company’s overall business health, with regional subsidiaries operating 53 percent of American’s flights and bringing in 75 percent more revenue than the mainline carrier per available seat mile.


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