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Flight Attendants Demand Immediate Congressional Action as Airline Bankruptcies Terrorize Workers’ Pension Protections

Date: September 16, 2005

CHICAGO – In the midst of domino effect airline bankruptcies, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA) calls upon Congress to hasten enactment of a new policy to save workers’ pensions, halt an imminent collapse of the nation’s pension system and protect against a massive taxpayer bailout.  The flight attendants have implored Congress to act for nearly a year.  The Union has warned that failure to immediately enact pension legislation to reverse our nation’s largest corporate pension dump carried out by United Airlines would trigger a collapse of America’s defined benefit pension system. 

“It’s never felt so awful to be right.  Flight Attendants have warned lawmakers for months that United Airlines set a dangerous precedent for retirement security and put the tax dollars of the American people at risk to pay for the collapse of the pension system.  In just a few months time, those warnings are becoming a stark reality,” stated AFA United President Greg Davidowitch.  “There is no room for politics when millions stand to lose what they’ve spent an entire work life to protect.  Good pension policy is ready and it must be enacted now -- starting with the restoration of the United Flight Attendant Pension Plan.”

Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines filed for Chapter 11 one day prior to a deadline for pension funding payments.  In doing so, the airlines placed their pension liabilities – money owed to workers’ pension funds -- at a lower priority for repayment during the airlines’ bankruptcy restructuring.  The already overburdened Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) yesterday expressed concern about the large pension funding liabilities.  The agency’s calculations noted that Delta Air Lines’ pension terminations would exceed United as the largest pension default in U.S. history.   If the pension plans are terminated, the timing of the bankruptcy filing would make it more difficult for the pension agency to recover a portion of the guaranteed underfunded pension liabilities.  As a result, more airline workers would face broken promises as their retirement security is destroyed.

“It should be abundantly clear that corporate America is brandishing bankruptcy as its weapon to attack career employees and their retirement security.  Their zero-sum-game strategy is certain to fail because it neglects addressing the underlying industry problems created by bad management decisions,” admonished Davidowitch.  “Without immediate legislative action, an entire generation of impoverished Americans will be created – with no security in their retirement.

“This is no time for intellectually arrogant politics – it’s time this government does work of, for and by the people.  Talk is cheap – the people of this nation need our representatives to act.”

75 Years of Safety & Service: 60 Years of Unity This year marks the 75th anniversary of the flight attendant profession and the 60th anniversary of the Association of Flight Attendants. More than 46,000 flight attendants, including the 19,000 at United, join together to form AFA-CWA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.unitedafa.org.

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