March 20, 2020
Rep. Pressley, Colleagues Stress Protection for Consumers and Workers in Economic Assistance Proposals for Airlines
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and 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.
As both chambers begin work on additional stimulus measures to mitigate the severe economic disruption caused by COVID-19, possibly providing financial assistance to impacted industries, we write to urge you to keep in mind the interest of consumers and workers,” write the lawmakers.
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer: As both chambers begin work on additional stimulus measures to mitigate the severe economic disruption caused by COVID-19, possibly providing financial assistance to impacted industries, we write to urge you to keep in mind the interest of consumers and workers. With any infusion of financial assistance to the airline industry as part of any stimulus package passed by Congress to respond to the spread of COVID-19, we recommend the following be included:
new 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; health and safety protections for front-line workers like flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers in compliance with CDC and public health authority guidelines; • special consideration for our smaller, regional carriers not represented by the major trade associations; availability of resources for supporting supply chain needs, particularly distribution of medical and health supplies; support for airports themselves as a critical piece of infrastructure that are losing revenue from collecting of fees, concessions, and parking; and the development of long-term strategies and targets to reduce the carbon footprint of the airline industry. It is particularly important that cash or loan assistance provided to airlines come with strong conditions given reports that airlines have spent over 96% of free-cash-flow on stock buybacks in recent years:
prioritize payroll payments with staffing level, benefit, and minimum wage assurances; 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; clear oversight, using a body with subpoena power, and a panel that must include representatives from airlines and unions representing aviation workers; 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). We look forward to working together to fulfill our longstanding and shared commitment to protecting consumers and the aviation workforce while also supporting a critical transportation industry. Thank you for your attention to this matter.