Friday, July 3, 2020
Dear Flight Attendants and Aviation Leaders:
Our aviation industry faces unprecedented challenges as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 crisis. Passenger demand is just now approximately 20% of what it was a year ago, at the same time the European Union announced its member states will not accept air travelers from the United States, and a new spike in coronavirus cases add to safety concerns that undermine confidence in flying. Recovery will take strong leadership from government to ensure confidence in safe air travel and an economy with millions who have a reason to fly and are able to purchase airline tickets rather than one that suffers from massive unemployment, a virus unchecked, and economic depression.
Flight Attendants are essential to the airline industry and its recovery. Passengers look to aviation’s first responders for our leadership in demanding the best of aviation, starting with safety of flight. Every day, tens of thousands of Flight Attendants report to work to ensure the safety of our passengers. We must remain in our jobs and at full strength in order to have the ability to recover from this crisis.
As we move forward, the undersigned union leaders, on behalf of tens of thousands of Flight Attendants, are committed to ensuring that Flight Attendants do not bear the brunt of the crisis. Our wages, healthcare benefits, work rules and job protections are not the problem in this industry. The problem is one of demand which will only be resolved when the flying public feels safe to travel. Concessions cannot and will not resolve the crisis in the industry. We are putting management on notice: don’t even think about it.
Following the events of September 11th, the subsequent financial crisis, and even the consolidation of the industry, our Flight Attendant profession experienced years of stagnated wages and lost work rules as many carriers used the bankruptcy courts to eliminate hard won contractual provisions. Those who escaped the bankruptcy knife faced years of stagnated bargaining because the “market rate” for our work across the industry was held down. Delta Air Lines even used the merger with Northwest to end one of the legacy contracts of our profession, undercutting all of us. Yet during that same period, shareholders benefited from stock buybacks and dividend payments – billions of dollars that could have been invested in our airlines and the people on the frontlines, or saved to help guard against a rainy day in our cyclical industry. We’ve sacrificed before and it never saved our jobs – it will just make our jobs weaker.
As union leaders, we commit to do all in our power to avoid or mitigate furloughs. The airline industry needs an extension of the CARES Act to keep us in our jobs, getting our paychecks, and connected to our healthcare. We made sure the Payroll Support Program can only go to our pay and benefits while requiring no involuntary furloughs, stock buybacks, dividends, as well as capped executive compensation. The problem is demand, not labor costs and this federal program run with public money, our money, keeps us in our jobs and ready to return our industry to full strength. We urge our airlines to come out in support of legislation as that is the most direct way to avoid furloughs and keep us strong. We also call on carriers to dramatically improve the early outs and voluntary leaves to allow those who need time off or a transition to retirement after years of service. And an extension of the Payroll Support Program ensures we all get paychecks for an additional six months, a vital bridge to regain confidence in air travel and much closer to a vaccine.
We must not let management set up a false choice of pitting our careers against our contracts. Staffing at the airlines is a function of flight schedules and passenger demand. Cutting wages and work rules will not bring our jobs back It simply means those remaining at work will work for less. And those returning from furlough would come back to lessened career expectations and diminished jobs. We know from experience it can take years or decades to recover from concessions, impacting Flight Attendants of all seniority levels long after the crisis has passed and profitability is restored.
On behalf of tens of thousands of Flight Attendants across the industry, we stand united in our opposition to concessions. Flight Attendants must not be allowed to bear the burden of the aviation crisis. When the industry recovers, and it will, we are committed to retaining our contracts intact and building even more improvements for our Flight Attendant profession.