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Flight Attendants Demand Protections for American Workers in Wartime

Date: March 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC – Patricia Friend, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, issued the following statement addressing the potential for devastating job losses in the aviation industry as a result of President Bush’s war with Iraq. AFA is also discussing this issue on Capitol Hill.

“If our nation engages in a war with Iraq, the government must protect the tens of thousands of airline workers who could lose their jobs. If the government does nothing, workers will never forget that our government turned its back on us twice, while big corporations were bailed out at the first sign of trouble.

“Over 150,000 U.S. airline workers have already lost their jobs. The airlines predict another 70,000 jobs will be cut if there is a war. Tens of thousands have already seen their wages and benefits reduced significantly as their carriers struggle for survival. It seems that every week another carrier asks their employees for concessions or cuts more jobs as the solution to a problem the workers did not create.

“The government has a unique opportunity to assist aviation workers, who will likely be disproportionately affected by a war, while providing stimulus to the economy in one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history.

“Much of the $15 billion allocated to airlines as part of the Air Transportation Stabilization Act after September 11 either has not been distributed or is not targeted for distribution.

“As federal money approved for loan guarantees will not actually be spent unless a guaranteed airline defaults, the unused funds should be allocated to a new fund that would provide airline workers who are negatively affected by a war with Iraq. That fund should provide workers with:
  • extended unemployment benefits for six months
  • health care coverage that would pay 75% of an eligible worker’s COBRA continuation or temporary state Medicaid coverage for those not covered under COBRA job retraining assistance

“Aid to struggling airlines in the event of war is a necessity. But while that aid may help to keep airlines flying, an estimated 70,000 additional aviation workers may lose their jobs in wartime. As members of Congress contemplate the needs of U.S. airlines in war, they must also consider the needs of U.S. airline workers. Allocating funds to assist the airlines and their employees will enable our government to provide the struggling economy and airline industry with an important stimulus. And it is the only way to continue securing an already devastated aviation system in wartime.”

More than 50,000 flight attendants at 26 airlines join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. Visit us @ www.afanet.org.

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