FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 30, 2020
Contact: Leslie Mendoza Kamstra, firstname.lastname@example.org, 317.397.1585
1,000+ additional contracted airline workers face layoffs in the coming weeks
WASHINGTON—The CARES Act allocates $3 billion to save jobs for contracted airline workers, but significant delays at the U.S. Treasury are creating exactly the disaster lawmakers sought to avoid: massive layoffs among aviation workers. Layoffs of the essential workers who keep the airline industry running have doubled since the stimulus was passed, creating a fast-motion disintegration of the workforce in this critical infrastructure as skilled, experienced workers are let go without health care, severance, or other benefits.
“I’ve been working at LAX since 2004,” says ABM wheelchair attendant Alba Melgar. “Now getting furloughed will affect me as I will no longer have health insurance, and with this pandemic it’s absolutely necessary to have it. It would not be fair for the airlines to get all this federal money and leave a lot of us without a job.”
The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27—more than a month ago—and initial payments to contractors were supposed to be made ‘not later than 10 days’ after its passage. In yet another example of big corporations getting billions, while smaller companies with less political influence are left behind, the largest U.S. airlines have already received billions of dollars in aid, yet airline contractors have been left with no choice but to lay off more staff as they wait for the funds from the Treasury.
“Being laid off makes me feel frustrated and upset,” says David Grimes, a baggage handler for 18 years at Newark International Airport. “I don’t know how my family and I will get by until things go back to normal. I’m pleading as a hard worker, a father, and husband, that somehow a solution will arrive and that I will be able to provide for my family.”
Since the CARES Act was passed, layoffs among SEIU members has more than doubled to 13,000 workers and more than a thousand additional layoffs have been announced for the coming weeks. Based on the number of workers employed in this industry and the number of SEIU members who have been laid off, as many as 65,000 airline contractor employees are estimated to be unemployed, which raises concerns about continuity, safety and security if the airline industry must hire tens of thousands of new workers once the pandemic subsides.
“I led my colleagues in the fight to make sure airline contractors were included in the worker protections offered by the CARES Act,” said Senator Ed Markey. “We were clear that any economic relief to the airline industry must put the health, safety, and financial well-being of American workers first. I am committed to making sure the funds Congress promised get to workers as soon as possible.”
Contracted airport workers around the country are coming together in Airport Workers United to raise their voices for fair wages and union rights. By sticking together, speaking out, and going on strike 32,000 airport workers have joined SEIU and 155,000 have won raises or other improvements, including healthcare, paid sick leave, and job protections.