Jobs Saved But More to Do
March 27, 2020
Dear Flight Attendants:
Moments ago, the House of Representatives voted by voice to pass the CARES Act. This is historic both for our country and our industry. The bill will now go to the President for signing.
Together we fought against all odds to achieve a relief package that put Workers First. Now we will work on implementation of the bill.
Airlines and airport companies that employ workers may access federal aid for the sole purpose of continuing pay and benefits for employees. This requires no involuntary furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits through September 30, 2020. (It is contemplated this is the amount of time required to get through this period of national emergency and restore our economy. If there is need for additional stimulus we will address that moving forward.) The airline relief also puts restrictions on stock buybacks, executive compensation, and dividends. The Treasury Secretary needs to outline the process for accessing this money within 5 days. We will work with our airlines to support the application process and we will keep all of you closely informed as the process moves forward.
The bill also provides for direct government loans to be available to airlines and airports. There is a false report circulating about this section and we ask you to help share the correct information. AFA and CWA identified a drafting error of the loan section in an early release of the compromised bill. The language did not have the worker protections that had been agreed to between parties. We worked directly with Minority Leader Schumer’s office and other transportation unions to get this fixed before the Senate voted on the bill Wednesday night.
There are enough issues to be concerned with at this time. Misinformation is always unhelpful, but it is especially harmful during a crisis with so much at stake. Contact your union if you have a concern and we will ensure you get accurate information throughout the days, weeks, and months going forward.
The bill is historic. It will save our jobs and our industry. But it’s not perfect. We will continue to work with lawmakers, the administration, and our airlines to ensure the bill is implemented as intended. But also, we need to recognize that this is a baseline for our fight going forward. Sadly, Miami Air has announced significant reductions and bankruptcy. The aviation portion of the bill does not cover our sisters and brothers at Cathay or Norwegian, and it will not restore to service Compass or Trans States (represented by Teamsters). Flight Attendants will be eligible for the unemployment provisions and the contractual provisions that apply to them. We will do everything we can to continue to support them during this difficult time and moving forward.
There have been many announcements of furloughs, including cuts at Omni Air. The bill provides protections against involuntary furloughs for airlines taking the federal aid or loan options. We know there will be voluntary leaves and voluntary furloughs – and we know there will be many questions about how everyone will be protected. We will work closely with your leadership at all of our airlines to communicate on all of your options and protections as we navigate this national emergency.
These times are going to be extremely difficult. We have lost a Flight Attendant to this virus. Paul Frishkorn was a larger than life Flight Attendant who also served as MEC Chairperson on Benefits at US Airways, and continued this work as a representative at APFA after the merger with American. Paul knew Flight Attendant benefits better than anyone and was just recently answering questions on unemployment for Flight Attendants in the Philadelphia crewroom. He worked tirelessly to help all of us. We will all miss Paul and devote ourselves in his name to care for others.
Later today, we will post a communication on our safety and health. It will be accessible on our resource page, afacwa.org/coronavirus and posted to official AFA social media channels. The airline industry is important to our nation’s efforts to fight this virus, moving medical personnel and resources to all of our communities. Those of you working these flights are doing important work. But we believe that our work should be limited to only what is needed to support our nation’s efforts to fight the virus. We are working now with officials to promote a government coordinated effort to maintain only essential service until our nation has flattened the curve of this virus. In the meantime, the AFA Executive Board yesterday adopted a unanimous resolution to call on all airlines to suspend all non-essential inflight food and beverage service to limit contain between crews and passengers. Some airlines have already taken this step, but we need all airlines to do this now.
Finally, we have a lot of work to do in coordination with other people right in our communities and around the globe. We will especially work together to help our medical professionals on the frontlines. We need relief for other industries to protect working people since our futures are tied to each other. Attacking the virus to end the healthcare crisis requires all of us working together and enabling our economy to rebound from this financial crisis requires strengthening everyone in our country. Our work creates the value of our businesses. We are the consumers and the taxpayers. Most importantly, we are the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, siblings and dear friends who love and cherish each other. For our health and well-being, and for the people we love, we will continue to press leaders of our government to put forward plans that focus on People First.
Sara Nelson, Deb Sutor, Kevin Creighan
AFA International Officers