March 19, 2020

Watson Coleman, Garcia, Cohen Stress Protection for Consumers and Workers in Economic Assistance Proposals for Airlines

Ewing, NJ (March 19, 2020) — Today, Congressmembers Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-05) and Steve Cohen (TN-03) 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. 

Recommendations include:

  • 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;
  • Support for airports themselves as a critical piece of infrastructure that are losing revenue from collecting of fees, concessions, and parking;
  • Prioritization of payroll payments with staffing level, benefit, and minimum wage assurances;
  • Clear oversight, using a body with subpoena power, and a panel that must include representatives from airlines and unions representing aviation workers.

“As we begin to deal with the toll COVID-19 will take economically, it’s obvious that we’ll need to offer support across a number of industries, aviation in particular. But what we cannot allow is a handout of taxpayer money without clear protections for the consumers who rely on these companies, and the workers at every level who keep them in business,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “As we look to build the next package of stimulus funds, we want to make sure American families are at the front of everyone’s minds. That’s a simple and critical step.”

“We should absolutely reject any blank-check bailout for the airline industry without making sure the money is first spent on workers who need it most -- flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers including contract workers like cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, security officers, and baggage handlers,” said Rep. Chuy García. “Airlines spent 96% of their free-cash-flows for the last 10 years to pad shareholder pockets. Any money we hand over must be strictly conditioned. They don't deserve a blank-check bailout. Any relief package must include strong guarantees to protect jobs, pensions, and benefits for all workers and include strong limits on lobbying costs, executive pay and share buybacks.”

To see the letter, click here.