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Flight Attendants Union Claims Victory on Coronavirus Package

March 25, 2020, 5:42 PM

At least one airline union is calling the emerging $2 trillion novel coronavirus relief package a win.

“This is not a corporate bailout; it’s a rescue package for workers—for Flight Attendants, gate agents, pilots, mechanics, caterers, airport maintenance and janitorial staff and everyone who keeps our aviation system moving,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement Wednesday.

A summary from Senate Democrats says the bill would keep millions of airline workers on the job and receiving paychecks. The package likely will get a vote in the Senate today.

Airline companies would be prohibited from stock buybacks and dividends for the entire life of the grant plus one year, and collective bargaining agreements negotiated by airline workers would be protected, the summary said.

In addition, health-care benefits would be expanded for airline contract workers, the Democrats’ summary said.

The package provides up to $25 billion for passenger airlines, $4 billion for cargo air carriers, and $3 billion for contractors for the “payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits,” the text of the bill says.

The package would ensure that the aviation system can operate as needed during the Covid-19 crisis, Nelson said. It would keep workers on the job “so our industry can ramp back up as soon as it’s safe, which is critical to our economic recovery,” she said.

At the same time, the bill mandates strict rules on the aviation industry to rein in corporate practices like buybacks, executive bonuses, and stock dividends, Nelson said.

The AFA, other airline unions, and airlines have been calling on Congress to provide relief to the industry. U.S. passenger and cargo carriers directly employ about 750,000 people worldwide and help drive more than 10 million U.S. jobs, according to Airlines for America, an industry association.

“HUGE fight but we WON on this - We got the deal structured around maintaining payroll, no invol furloughs,” Nelson tweeted earlier Wednesday, referring to involuntary furloughs.

The union didn’t immediately respond to requests for further comment. Nelson said in her tweet that she would have additional details later.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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