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Raskin, Schakowsky, Garcia, Porter Ask Treasury Secretary to Clarify Airline Guidance on Layoffs

May 26, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) and Katie Porter (CA-45) in sending a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asking him to clarify the guidance given to airlines receiving support as provided by Subtitle B of Title IV of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress’ intent when including the Air Carrier Worker Support provisions was to prevent airline workers from suffering the negative economic impacts of the ongoing pandemic.

“When Congress passed the historic, workers’ first relief package for the airline industry as part of the CARES Act, it made crystal clear that any assistance provided to the airlines would be conditioned on airlines maintaining FULL payroll and benefits, halting stock buybacks, and other important provisions to protect workers, not carriers’ bottom line. Cutting hours is a direct violation of the law as Congress intended it, without question, whether it be United, Delta, or any other airline doing so,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Secretary Mnuchin no longer needs to heed the creative advice of white shoe corporate lawyers in his current capacity as Treasury Secretary, he needs to enforce the law as Congress intended it. It’s past time for him to put the American people first and tell any airline currently out of compliance that they need to return the money to taxpayers, or swiftly come into compliance.”

“The employees keeping our airlines running deserve better, for putting their lives on the line every day,” said Congressman Garcia. “As a member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, I fought hard to ensure we put strict conditions in the CARES Act to protect workers in any airline bailout. Instead of holding airlines accountable to the spirit of the law, Secretary Mnuchin is caving to a profit-over-people mindset and enabling airlines to extract cost-savings off the backs of working people. The brave airline workers at United, Delta, and all those who serve at Midway and O’Hare deserve better.

“Workers are the backbone of our capitalist economy—slashing their pay and benefits after receiving federal dollars is absolutely unacceptable,” Congresswoman Porter said. “It is the government’s duty to hold companies like United accountable and prevent corporate abuse, especially when taxpayer dollars are on the line. I’m going to get to the bottom of why Secretary Mnuchin is refusing to do his job.”

United, Delta, and JetBlue airlines have all unilaterally cut workers hours – in some cases significantly decreasing these employees’ pay and benefits. The creative position held by these airlines is that hours cut is somehow unrelated to compensation, which is protected under the CARES Act. These hours being cut by these carriers have made some workers eligible for unemployment assistance – a circumstance the CARES Act provisions for airlines was explicitly designed to prevent. These carriers are very clearly out of compliance with the letter and spirit of the law.

"The payroll assistance program is keeping nearly one million aviation workers on the payroll, on health care, and out of crowded unemployment lines," said Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. "Delta cannot be permitted to undermine the overwhelming success of this program by cheating its workers of their pay and benefits while stockpiling taxpayer dollars. We thank Congress for its support of aviation workers and for working to hold Delta accountable."

“It is disgusting to see some airlines break the law and accept federal funds intended to protect employees’ pay checks and then cut their pay anyway. These carriers reduced weekly, monthly and yearly pay rates with no regard to CARES Act protections or the impact it would have on thousands of families. If an air carrier refuses to abide by the law it does not deserve federal aid,” said Sito Pantoja General Vice President of Transportation for International Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

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